Holiday sales edged up at drug chains in 2013 despite the impact of a shorter shopping season.

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Despite shorter season, holiday sales rise

December 30th, 2013

NEW YORK – Holiday sales edged up at drug chains in 2013 despite the impact of a shorter shopping season.

The late Thanksgiving this year — falling on Nov. 28 versus Nov. 22 in 2012 — cut the holiday shopping season to 26 days from 32 days a year earlier. Still, the chain drug sector put up better numbers than the retail industry overall.

Total dollar volume at chain drug stores climbed 4.5%, with same-store sales rising 2.1%, according to research by Racher Press Inc., publisher of Chain Drug Review.

With six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas than there were a year ago, the figures fell short of the 2012 increases of 4.6% and 2.4%. Chains reported mediocre sales across the board.

Overall retail sales gained 2.3% between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24, according to MasterCard SpendingPulse. The performance was in line with expectations, but several factors impacted purchases, according to Sarah Quinlan, senior vice president of market insights for MasterCard Advisors. Besides the shorter season, bad weather in some regions over the final two weekends clearly affected sales, she said. Yet sales were up over the 2012 period.

“One clear bright spot is that many consumers who were stuck indoors turned to online shopping to check items off their list, and that helped drive e-commerce growth,” Quinlan noted.



Total Sales

Same-Store Sales

+4.5% +2.1%
+4.6% +2.4%
+4.4% +2.2%
+5.4% +3.4%
+6.8% +5.5%
*2013 had 26 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, compared with 32 in 2012.
Source: Racher Press research

Among holiday-related categories, jewelry was a clear winner and one of the few segments that showed a gain over last year. Total apparel also saw modest growth, while luxury and electronics were flat. ­E-commerce sales posted low-double-digit growth.

The International Council of Shopping Centers reported that the weeks ending Nov. 30 and Dec. 21 saw the largest year-over-year sales increases, at 2.5% and 2.7% respectively, according to the ICSC-Goldman Sachs Weekly Chain Store Sales Index. ICSC projects December monthly sales to be up 3% to 4% year over year.

According to ShopperTrak, general merchandise, apparel, furniture and other products (GAFO) in-store retail sales for the week of Dec. 16 to 22 fell 3.1% versus a year earlier, while retail brick-and-mortar shopper traffic decreased 21.2%. "Bad weather throughout the country kept some shoppers away from stores," commented Bill Martin, ShopperTrak's founder.

Despite more markdowns and promotional efforts from retailers, "Super Saturday" (Dec. 21) saw a decline in retail sales by 0.7% compared with 2012, ShopperTrak reported. In-store shopper traffic fell 18.1%. Still, ShopperTrak forecast after-holiday markdowns to drive robust retail sales and store traffic in the post-Christmas period.  

Drug chains helped drive holiday sales with extended hours leading up to Christmas. According to the National Retail Federation, 32 million Americans had yet to start their holiday shopping as of Dec. 20.

In light of that, Rite Aid stores nationwide were open late through Dec. 23, with some stores open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Rite Aid had a range of gifts that were “perfect for your gift-giving needs,” said Tony Montini, the chain’s executive vice president of merchandising. “And with our nearly 4,600 locations nationwide operating under extended hours, people can quickly and easily cross names off their list and feel good about their giving.”

The retailer offered options and value in categories suc as candy and chocolate, toys, bath and beauty, and gizmos and gadgets.

Most Walgreens stores were open until midnight through Christmas Eve, including 1,600 24-hour locations. On Christmas Day, most of the chain’s non-24-hour stores were open from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.

As many shoppers were checking the final presents off of their lists, they often needed to pick up one more item before celebrating, said Moe Alkemade, group vice president of consumables, sundries and seasonal. Walgreens’ research indicated that around 97% of people saw themselves making an impromptu shopping trip. With more than 8,000 locations nationwide, the chain offered a variety of last-minute gifts to complete the holiday shopping experience.

To help customers figuring out what to buy, the chain created a shopping guide — “Happy and Healthy, Your Guide to Easy Holiday Solutions from Walgreens” — as well as a gift finder tool accessible online or through its mobile app.

CVS/pharmacy, meanwhile, offered items from classic seasonal decorations to stocking stuffers and such unexpected gifts as a wine cabinet, all within consumers’ budgets.

“Time and money are top of mind with holiday shoppers, and we’re committed to making it easy for shoppers to find everything they need at a great value,” said senior vice president of merchandising Judy Sansone. “Each year shoppers are discovering gift options they didn’t expect to see when walking through our aisles.” Shoppers could visit CVS for everyday necessities as well as to grab a thoughtful gift, such as the latest designer fragrance, popular toy or tech gadget.

The chain encouraged consumers to visit its Facebook and Twitter pages. Shoppers could follow @CVS_Extra on Twitter to learn about promotions and ways to win a variety of gift items. Additional holiday savings could be found on ­