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ICSC-UBS Weekly Chain Store Sales Snapshot

ICSC-UBS Weekly Chain Store Sales Snapshot

BY Patricia Johnson

It all began on March 15, 1957 when Clyde Brown, Michael Lewis, Albert Lowery, James Osberg, Robert Peters, Howard Senor and Harold Spurway met at the Palmer House in Chicago, IL. Each of the seven men contributed $500.00 and the International Council of Shopping Centers, ICSC, was formed.

The ICSC now has a total membership of 44,000 in 75 countries around the world, including shopping center owners, developers, marketing specialists, retailers, and public officials. The principal aim of the ICSC is to provide development assistance to their members through education, conventions, publications and legislative action.

Each Tuesday morning at 7:45 a.m. ET, the ICSC-UBS Weekly Chain Store Sales Snapshot is released for retail store sales, for the week ended the prior Saturday. The report, in addition to a narrative, and charts, basically consists of two figures as follows:

July 13, 2004 Sales Snapshot - through the week ending Saturday July 10, 2004

Week-to-Week Change: 0.0% from prior week

Year-over-Year Change for the Week 3.4% from prior year

The figure you will hear reported by the media is the percentage change from the prior week. Since there was a 0.0% change from the prior week, then the chain store sales is reported as unchanged.

The ICSC provides the following explanation as the basis for determining their weekly index.

The ICSC-UBS weekly U.S. retail chain store sales index measures nominal same-store or comparable-store sales excluding restaurant and vehicle demand. The weekly index is constructed using sales-weighted geometric average growth rates to preserve long-term consistency and is statistically benchmarked to a broad-based monthly retail industry sales aggregate that currently represents about 80 retail chain stores, which also is compiled by ICSC. A representative sample of those major retailers has been used as a control group to extrapolate the weekly sales index. As such, the weekly index statistically represents industry sales and is not just a sum of sales for a handful of retailers. The standard period used for the index is Sunday through Saturday, even though some retailers use a different weekly accounting period. The weekly sales index is presented on an adjusted basis to account for normal seasonality and to counter other data anomolies. Weekly seasonal adjustment is at best difficult for chain store sales given that retailers can and often do shift promotions to counter typical shifts in the calendar. Nonetheless, the approach to weekly seasonal adjustment used here follows from the Piser Method, which was popular in the early 1930s and became the standard for weekly adjustment.

The ICSC methodology for determining the measurement sounds impressive, but it appears ICSC may simply use seven retail establishments as their representative sample.

The ICSC sample report dated December 16, 2003 indicates the following were used: TGT, FD, JCP-Dept., JCP-Eckerd, MAY, S, WMT. The initials used represent the NYSE symbols for the various companies, i.e. Target, Federated Department Stores, J.C. Penney, May Department Stores, Sears Roebuck and Company, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

Wall Street View is indicating the basis for the report as Dayton Hudson, Federated, Kmart, May, J.C. Penney, Sears and Wal-Mart so the retailers may change, but the number of retailers incorporated into the report remains at seven.

This particular indicator is considered a market mover, because of the fact it involves consumer spending. According to Econoday, “consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of the economy, so if you know what consumers are up to, you’ll have a pretty good handle on where the economy is headed. Needless to say, that’s a big advantage for investors.”

Econday is calling the ICSC-UBS sales “one of the most timely indicators of consumer spending” due to the fact that the report comes out weekly for prior weeks sales.

ICSC is stating that unusually cool summer weather has kept consumers out of stores, for the past seven weeks, and predicts summer clearance sales will be heavier than normal.

When you have a snowstorm that prevents you from leaving your house, you may not go shopping. When the summer storms flood your area and you’re unable to cross the bridge to get to the mall, you may not go shopping. But, when the temperature is ‘unusually cool’ during the summer is that going to stop anyone from shopping?

Has it occurred to the experts that perhaps folks aren’t shopping because they are being bombarded with higher gasoline costs, higher medical costs, higher education costs, higher food costs, and higher utilities?

The 3.4% year-over-year change for the week is described as the weakest year-on-year pace in a year – which certainly is not a good indication of a booming economy.

Sources: International Council of Shopping Centers Econoday Wall Street View


© 2004 Patricia Johnson

Patricia Johnson is a freelance writer and CEO of Articles and Answers. Visit us online at

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