This article was originally published on reverb, Drake Cooper’s reflections on advertising, creativity, and trends. Read more.

Final Holiday Retail Sales Figures

The 2011 holiday shopping season turned out to be a solid one for retailers. But it was a strange and bumpy ride to get there… Black Friday started things off well but December sales were weak up until closer to Christmas when shoppers returned to stores. Overall, holiday retail sales were up 4.5% compared to last season while average daily spending during the holidays was $83/day (vs. $85/day last season per Gallup).

Just how bumpy of a ride was it? Per USA Today and ShopperTrak:

The post-Black Friday lull was deeper than usual this year. The two weeks after Thanksgiving weekend showed the biggest percentage sales decline since 2000. Then, during the final two weeks before Christmas, sales surged again, by the highest rate since 2005.

Interestingly, Christmas Eve and December 26th were the second and third heaviest spending days of the season. Which is odd because many analysts didn’t even have December 24th forecast to be among the top 10 days. (But it was on a Saturday this year, which should have tipped a few off.)

Online retail in particular had a great season, up 15% versus last season. (Weekly online spending is below–click to enlarge.)

The combination of aggressive retailer discounting, the long-enduring recession and some rebounding activity created four types of shoppers this season:

The Bargain Timer:

Wait until the prices are at their absolute lowest, then strike hard.

The Midnight Buyer:

Get the best inventory no matter what time.

The Returner:

Over-buy and return. (Interestintly, retailers plan on returning nearly 10 cents of every dollar taken in during the holidays.)

The “Me” Shopper:

One for you, one for me.

Most likely, everyone showed signs of each this season.

But a strong holiday shopping season kicks 2012 off in a welcomed positive direction and somewhat helps abate the worries of low consumer demand which, per McKinsey, is the key thing executives report to be concerned with as 2012 begins.

Online retail in particular had a great season, up 15% versus last season.