Window shopping is taking on a new meaning for many Americans.
The latest sales data from the holiday season show that U.S. shoppers increasingly prefer to research clothes, TVs and shoes online, or “virtual window shop,” before heading to stores.
ShopperTrak, which tracks data at 40,000 stores in the U.S., said Tuesday that sales for November and December rose 2.7 percent to $265.9 billion. That was better than the 2.4 percent growth the data tracker expected for the season.
Sales may have grown, but there were fewer people in stores. In fact, the number of store visits shoppers made during the holiday season dropped 14.6 percent to 17.6 billion.
The data signal a continued shift in how Americans are shopping. Analysts say if shoppers are doing most of their research before they get to stores, they will be less likely to browse the racks and shelves once they’re in stores. And ultimately, that could change how stores market to shoppers.
C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America’s Research Group, a consumer-research company, said shoppers came into stores during the holiday season with a list of specific things to buy to make sure they wouldn’t spend more.
“They did less browsing,” he said. “They knew exactly what they wanted to buy.”
The ShopperTrak numbers, which do not include online sales, in some ways give retailers hope for their brick-and-mortar stores. The data show that Americans are at least still willing to go into stores despite the fact that they’ve been spending more online in recent years.
To be sure, online sales did grow during the holiday season. But they weren’t as robust as previously expected.