December Sales Numbers Look Weak

Updated at 12:04 PM

Wal-Mart, which people had expect to be the clear winner this holiday shopping season, came in with same-store sales growth of 1.7 percent--below the 2.8 percent analysts had expected. Many thought Wal-Mart would be one of the only chains to post positive same-store sales. They got there, but just barely. ICSC's numbers haven't been posted yet. I'll link to them as soon as they become available. For now, has an decent rundown.

Some of the early results were clearly disappointing.

Wal-Mart Stores, the nation's biggest retailer, reported a 1.7% gain in same-store sales excluding fuel in December. That was less than the 2.8% increase expected by analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters.

The retailer's own forecast was for sales to grow between 1 to 3%.

"I am shocked and disappointed," said retail analyst Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group.

Because of its low prices and aggressive discounts, Beemer had pegged Wal-Mart as the clear winner of the holiday shopping season and was expecting the retailer to post a 3% sales gain in December.

"If even Wal-Mart is unable to have a significant sales increase considering its low prices, it means that the American shopper is truly tapped out," he said.

Same-store sales at Wal-Mart stores rose 1.9% in the month versus 2.6% for the same period a year ago. However, the company's Sam's Club division fared worse, logging a mere 0.1% same-store increase compared to a 1.3% gain a year earlier.

Update: ICSC published its preliminary numbers based on the results of 37 chains. The index is down 1.7 percent. That's better than November, when sales fell 2.7 percent. It's the third straight months of same-store sales declines. Luxury chains did the worst and were down a whopping 17.4 percent. Discount stores eked out a gain--up 0.4 percent.

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