Even as the margin of error to have gifts comfortably arrive before the holiday melted, shoppers chose the Internet over a trip to the mall. Sales at physical stores fell 6.7% over the most recent weekend, while traffic declined 10.4%, according to RetailNext, which collects data through analytics software it provides to retailers. That is worse than the 5.8% decline in sales and the 8% drop in traffic recorded from Nov. 1 through Dec. 14.


Retailers have faced challenges this year that include unusually warm weather that has damped demand for coats, sweaters and other winter gear, as well as a decline in spending by tourists visiting the U.S. as a result of the strong dollar. Those forces have weighed on spending despite an improving job market and low gas prices, and have prompted some retailers to slash prices to attract shoppers.


Online-only retailers, however, have pulled back on broad promotions in December, according to PwC research. "The leading online-only retailers aren't playing the big promotion game as much. They are using big data and tailoring personal curated items," to spur online shoppers to buy, said Steve Barr, retail consultant at PwC.

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