Kmart's deep discount sales strategy gave the bruised retailer cause for celebration this holiday shopping season. The chain, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy-court protection last January, drew 17.4 percent of the 1,000 consumers surveyed about their shopping trips this weekend, compared with Target's 15.6 percent, according to America Research Group's Holiday Shopping Follow-Up Survey.

Wal-Mart was No. 1 with a nonetheless disappointing 43.4 percent as last-minute shoppers failed to rescue a dreary shopping season. Today, Wal-Mart cut its December sales forecast, estimating same-store sales would rise 2 percent to 3 percent for the five weeks ending Jan. 3. Wal-Mart previously forecast 3 percent to 5 percent growth for the period.

The top five stores visited by shoppers Saturday and Sunday Dec. 21 and Dec. 22, according to the American Research study, were: Wal-Mart; JCPenney 20.3 percent; Sears, 18.9 percent; Kmart, and Target. The study has an error factor of plus or minus 4.3 percent.

This represented the second weekend Kmart outdid its trendy rival Target. "Kmart has been more aggressive in discounting, and has pushed Target into fifth place two weekends in a row," says Britt Beemer, chairman of the Charleston, S.C.-based research firm.

Up until the weekend of Dec. 14 and Dec. 15, the rankings were predictable: Wal-Mart was first; Sears, second; Penneys, third; Target, fourth, and Kmart a distant fifth. "Now, as the season gets going, Penneys is by far the most aggressive of all retailers," Beemer says. "It pushed Sears out of second place two weekends in a row," he says. "So you can see that retailers that are giving the bigger discounts shifted some consumers around in the marketplace in recent weeks."

Though Wal-Mart pulled in a respectable 43.4 percent of surveyed shoppers, that number is low compared to previous weeks. "They've had at least 50 percent or more," Beemer says. "That was actually a pretty significant decline for them."

Also surprising was the sudden rise in Internet shopping traffic. Last weekend, 25.5 percent of those surveyed said they ordered online during that period. That's up from a fairly steady 20 percent previous weekends, Beemer says.

Catalog retailers received more orders as well, Beemer says, up from the average 18.6 percent of consumers surveyed to a hardy 23.7 percent.

Beemer said the shortened holiday shopping period contributed to the increase in home shopping. "The six fewer shopping days definitely played a role in online shopping and catalog shopping both being up a full 5 percentage points, says Beemer.