Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

The eye in the sky forecasts holiday sales


park1By  Jon Lentz

When predicting holiday shopping traffic, it can help to take a bird’s eye view.
Or even better, take a peak from outer space.
That’s what Thomson Reuters analyst Jharonne Martis-Olivo did, using mall traffic data for the 10 weeks leading up to Black Friday gleaned from satellite images showing how crowded shopping mall parking lots were as a way to detect shopping patterns. The data from the images was provided by Remote Sensing Metrics.
Her conclusion? Mall traffic for November 2010 has recently shown a steep rise, pointing to stronger same-store sales.
The data include more than 500 satellite observations of car count from shopping malls across the country.
Mall parking lots were only 30 percent full in September of 2008, a period when same-store sales declined.
During September in 2009 and 2010, more cars were parked outside the malls, which correlated with an uptick in sales.
Other factors, such as how much a customer spends on a visit, also play a role. For example, prices were slashed in 2008 in November as retailers struggled through the worst financial crisis in decades.
But prices seem to be less of a factor this year, and November sales could be looking up. Different companies are taking different approaches to attracting holiday shoppers.

Source: Image of Southtown Shopping Center in Minnesota: (C) 2010 DigitalGlobe, Remote Sensing Metrics analysis.