January retail numbers: Shoppers battle the weather for good deals

In-store analytics firm Euclid measured data on nearly 25 million domestic shopping sessions during January, revealing that shoppers remained quite active in January despite the effects of bad winter weather across much of the country. According to today′s report, shopper traffic and window conversion showed improvement over last year for another month in a row as shoppers looked to capitalize on a very promotional January. Average visit durations rebounded to five-month highs as shoppers returned to healthier browsing behavior after the rushed holiday season.

Traffic in January decreased 17.6 percent compared to the previous month, but increased 1.4 percent compared to the same month last year. Shopping visits grew despite harsh winter storms across much of the country this year. Shoppers appeared intent to take advantage of less crowded malls after the holidays and compelling end-of-season deals in January. Traffic particularly benefited from strong weekends at the beginning of the month and around the Martin Luther King holiday.

Window conversion in January, defined as the number of shoppers who enter a store as a percentage of the total foot traffic, rose to 8.4 percent from 7.3 percent last year. This was a slight decline from the 8.9 percent seen in December 2013. The trend of highly aggressive promotions continued in January and once again appeared to positively impact window conversion as value-conscious shoppers were more successfully attracted into the store than last year. Window conversion remains close to its high for the last twelve months.

The percentage of shoppers who entered a store but left within five minutes ("bounce rate") was 10.7 percent in January 2014, up from 10.3 percent experienced in both the previous month and January of last year. Bounce rates rose again in January after showing improvement last month, likely the result of an increased percentage of shopping trips that were related to returns, exchanges, and gift card redemptions this January.

Shopping session duration, defined as the mean time from store entry to store exit, was 23.0 minutes in January, an increase from 22.0 minutes last year and 22.2 last month. Average duration was as long as it has been since August 2013, showing shoppers were browsing more merchandise and felt less pressured to get in and out of the store in a hurry, likely having a positive impact on average sales. The magnitude of the improvement over last year is a positive sign that shoppers were looking to spend with the surplus of store credit and gift card value generated by the holidays.

In January, active repeat customers, defined as individuals returning to a store location more than once in 30 days, totaled 13.8 percent of total visits measured, up a significant 140 basis points from the previous month, but much less than the 17.0 percent seen last January. The shoppers who were getting out to the mall were generating much more frequent store visits in January to make returns/exchanges and cash in on the resulting store credits as well as gift cards from the holidays.

The best and worst shopping days of January both came early in the month. The best day of the month was Saturday January 4th, with the month’s highest traffic and window conversion by a significant margin. In addition, shoppers were very engaged in-store with one of the lowest bounce rates of the month. This day saw a lot of shoppers looking to take advantage of great post-holiday deals. The worst day of the month was Monday the 6th, which was negatively impacted by weather and a likely shopper hangover following the holidays. This day saw worse performance across all metrics than any other Monday during the month. Engagement was particularly poor, with one of the highest bounce rates seen in the month.

Read more about consumer behavior. (Photo by Ed Yourdon.)

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