December's comparable year-over-year sales in the core shops on the ActionWatch retail panel were slightly better than in the previous two months, bringing the full quarter's comp down to -13%. This number gives the fourth quarter first prize in lowest sales declines of the year for the shops on the panel, but by a very small margin. Also, Q4 2009 had the "easiest" comparison of the year since that quarter was so bad in 2008, so we were actually expecting (or at least hoping) for an even smaller comparative sales decline.
The Hardgoods and Wetsuit categories both had positive comps in December, but the other three major categories were each down in the high teens (see the table below). Although apparel sales were down overall, there were a few classes that had sales increases over last year. By now it should be no surprise that woven shirts (which includes flannels) performed well in December, with a 16% sales increase over the same month last year. Boardshorts and skirts also had positive comp sales in the month. The hardgoods gain was driven mostly by the surf category which experienced sales increases across most of its classes.
We're putting together a more comprehensive review of 2009 for the next printed issue of Transworld Business (the Sourcebook issue), so keep an eye out for that next month.
Overall sales declines improved slightly each quarter in 2009 although the reverse is true for the Footwear category. Apparel also faltered in the Q4, but the other categories showed improvement in their comp numbers.
The ActionWatch Retail Panel includes 250 surf/skate independent specialty shops across the U.S. and is growing rapidly as more retailers join the free program. Retailers who participate get free access to a set of 50 reports updated each month. Retailers interested in joining the ActionWatch Retail Panel can get more information at www.ActionWatch.com.
All ActionWatch reports are made from the aggregated data of the participating retailers, which are located throughout the U.S. and vary in size from 750-square-foot shops to stores over 10,000 square feet. Data is collected monthly from electronic reports submitted by participating retailers.