NEW YORK-A late pre-Christmas surge in spending propelled the ICSC-UBS Retail Chain Store Sales Index up by 2.7% in the final shopping week before Christmas, compared with the prior week. That was the strongest weekly gain since Dec. 22, 2001, which saw a 2.9% increase.

“Although holiday sales were slow and uneven for most of the season, last-minute shoppers were out in force last week,” said Michael Niemira, ICSC’s chief economist and director of research. “As a result of this last-minute surge, we expect December comp-store sales will increase by 3.0% to 3.5% on a year-over-year basis.”

According to the ICSC-UBS ongoing holiday shopping survey, a third of consumers were shopping later this year than last, which resulted in a more intense holiday gift-buying crunch for last-minute shoppers. The weekly sales index also rose by 4.3% on a year-over-year basis, which was the strongest showing since July 3, 2004, which was up 4.4% that week.

Overall, based on the ICSC tally of major retailers, the two-month holiday season (November and December combined) appears to be on track for a 2.5% to 3.0% gain, according to Niemira. The ICSC-UBS Weekly U.S. Retail Chain Store Sales Index measures comp-store sales, excluding restaurant and vehicle demand, and is benchmarked to a broad-based monthly retail industry sales aggregate representing about 75 retail chain stores, which also is compiled by ICSC.

Such aggregates don’t describe individual retailers, however, whose results this year show some variation. For example, among the discount retail giants, Wal-Mart said early this week that its December comp-store sales are tracking at the midpoint of a projected 1% to 3% increase, something of a improvement over its pallid November comps, but not as strong as Target’s projected 3% to 5% increase in comp-store sales for the month.

Separately, the ICSC and UBS reported that almost three-quarters of consumers used currency and “cash-equivalents” as the main method of payment for gifts bought during this holiday season. Cash itself was the number-one method of payment for holiday gifts this year, with 40% of consumers paying that way. Fifty-three percent of those aged 18-34 years old used cash, while 37% of those 35 and older did the same. Other “cash equivalents” were also popular means of paying for holiday gifts, with 19% opting for their debit cards and 11% using checks.

Another 26% of consumers chose credit cards as their primary means of paying for holiday gifts. But 21% of those consumers, or four out of every five of the credit-card users, expect to pay off the bill when it arrives, while only 5% of consumers will pay when they can.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Once you are an ALM digital member, you’ll receive:

  • Unlimited access to GlobeSt and other free ALM publications
  • Access to 15 years of GlobeSt archives
  • Your choice of GlobeSt digital newsletters and over 70 others from popular sister publications
  • 1 free article* every 30 days across the ALM subscription network
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM events and publications

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?


© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.

Dig Deeper

GlobeSt Net Lease Spring 2024Event

This conference brings together the industry's most influential & knowledgeable real estate executives from the net lease sector.

Get More Information


Join GlobeSt

Don't miss crucial news and insights you need to make informed commercial real estate decisions. Join now!

  • Free unlimited access to's trusted and independent team of experts who provide commercial real estate owners, investors, developers, brokers and finance professionals with comprehensive coverage, analysis and best practices necessary to innovate and build business.
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM and GlobeSt events.
  • Access to other award-winning ALM websites including and

Already have an account? Sign In Now
Join GlobeSt

Copyright © 2024 ALM Global, LLC. All Rights Reserved.