Shoppers stayed home during shutdown

Although the government shutdown has ended, its effects continue to ripple through the economy far beyond employee furloughs.

Retail store traffic fell an average 7.3 percent each week of the shutdown compared with the same time period last year, ShopperTrak reported Friday.

The area around Washington, D.C., faced an even more drastic decline of 11.4 percent in the week of Oct. 6-12 versus the same week last year, the analytics group found.

Gift shop owner Suprabha Beckjord noticed the drop in customers.

"This time of year a certain number of people really like the Halloween cards, and I found that was definitely cut back," said Beckjord, owner of a 30-year-old gift shop, Transcendence-Perfection-Bliss, near the National Zoo. 

While people enjoyed being out in the beautiful weather during the 16-day shutdown, not many wanted to spend money, she said.

"Quite a few people came into the store to buy one or two cards, but not the other things they might have wanted," she said.

The shutdown also gave consumers time to clean their closets and scout out ways to make or save money.

Carmen Lopez estimated a 10 percent increase in customers and sales at her Current Boutique consignment stores in the Washington area.

"I feel like we had more customers come in the store, and with the sudden change of seasons sales did not decrease," Lopez said.

By the numbers, retail is struggling nationwide.

Year-over-year retail store shopper traffic was 5 percent lower in the week of Sept. 22-Sept. 28 leading up to the shutdown. And Sept. 15-21 was 4.7 percent lower than the year-earlier period.

That drop continued once government workers were sent home. Compared with 2012, store foot traffic nationwide fell 7.5 percent the week of Sept. 29-Oct. 5 and 7.1 percent Oct. 6-12, the ShopperTrak report showed.

"Wednesday's agreement, which also authorizes retroactive pay for furloughed federal employees, holds promise for a resurgence in shopper activity," said ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin. "However, we expect that it will take some time and revised strategies for retailers to recover from the impact the government shutdown had on sales and store traffic."

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