U.S. shoppers spent $42 billion during the last weekend before Christmas, up 2.4 percent from 2013's $41 billion, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday (Dec. 23).
That's better than a decline, but it indicates that 2014's holiday season may fall short of early estimates that it will be the best in three years. Sales picked up in November and December, but that may not be enough to make up for a slow start to the season, said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, which calculated the $42 billion number.
The final surge "has taken what has been a sluggish season and made it merely lackluster," Johnson said.
A separate estimate from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) suggested retailers could see a last-minute shopping surge despite what the group called a "historically low" 11 percent of consumers who haven't yet started buying holiday gifts. Sales were up 3.1 percent year-over-year in the week ended Saturday, Dec. 20, according to the ICSC and Goldman Sachs Weekly Chain Store Sales Index.
The National Retail Federation earlier predicted that sales in November and December would rise 4.1 percent, the biggest increase since 2011. An index of merchants tracked by Retail Metrics Inc. showed a 5.2 percent sales boost in November, topping analysts' 3 percent average estimate.