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Takeaway: Holiday sales are right in line with last yr. That’s not terrible, but the cadence needs to pick up as we comp a weak Jan 2012.

The trajectory of holiday sales seems to be coming in right in line with last year. That’s not terrible, but the cadence needs to pick up over the next week, because January 2012 was weak.

In looking at the weekly ICSC sales index – which we think is increasingly important given the shrinking size of companies participating in the monthly same store sales game – we think it is uncanny how closely 2012 tracked 2011 in the four weeks leading up to Christmas.  

We’ve heard forever that ‘consumers are buying closer to need’ but when you look at the weekly change by year from ’08 through ’12, it’s clear as day that this purchasing pattern is more the case today than ever before. In fact, in each of the past two years, we saw an increasing decline in sales 3-4 weeks before the Christmas holiday, but then ‘catch up’ in the 1-2 weeks prior to the big day.

Retail: Sales Spot-On W Last  Yr. Need to Accelerate. - sales1

Sales trends in 2011 and 2012 vs previous 5-year average are too close to call. To date, you can hardly tell one from the other. But as noted, last year we saw a precipitous decline in the early part of January – something that we need to successfully lap this year to keep the channel as clean as it was throughout the bulk of 2H12.

Retail: Sales Spot-On W Last  Yr. Need to Accelerate. - sales2

We’ll have more details on Wed January 2.