August 7, 2009, 12:00 AM

Back-to-school sales at malls will be down 5.9%, ShopperTrak predicts

Foot traffic will be down an even steeper 10.0%, says ShopperTrak, which monitors traffic at some 50,000 retail outlets and malls. One bright spot: there were as many shoppers going to malls in May and June as a year earlier.

The back-to-school season is not likely to bring the hoped-for rebound in consumer spending, at least not at stores and shopping malls, ShopperTrak says.

Foot traffic to bricks-and-mortar locations is expected to be 10.0% below last year and sales 5.9% lower during the weeks before schools reopen, says ShopperTrak, which monitors traffic at some 50,000 retail outlets and enclosed malls.

One bright spot: as many shoppers visited shopping malls in May and June as a year earlier, ShopperTrak says. “While encouraging, this boost in mall traffic has yet to result in increased sales,” says Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak. The research firm says sales at stores and malls for the week ended Aug. 1 were down 6.2% compared with the same week a year ago. But those sales were up 2.7% over the week ended July 25, a sign consumers were beginning to shop for back-to-school items.

In a separate report released this week, the International Council of Shopping Centers Inc. reported that July sales in retail chain stores were off 5% in July from a year earlier. The council predicted August sales would trail last year’s by 4%, with the back-to-school season and improving economy providing a small boost.

The National Retail Federation projected last month that the average family with children in elementary or high school would spend $548.72 on school merchandise, a decline of 7.7% from last year. 22.2% of consumers surveyed said they would shop online this year, according to a poll by BIGresearch on behalf of the NRF.

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