Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Nation's Retailers Receive Gift of Their Own

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Nation's Retailers Receive Gift of Their Own

Article excerpt

NEW YORK (AP) -- The nation's retailers may be getting the Christmas gift they wished for all year.

Thanks to strong optimism about the economy, consumers have been on a buying binge this holiday season at the mall and on the Web, and new data indicates that many merchants will likely meet or exceed their sales forecasts.

Unlike in years past, many retailers are even doing well enough that they aren't slashing prices across their stores and won't have to rely as heavily on a surge in after-Christmas buying to achieve respectable sales.

"The retailers largely have a good one in the bag," Jim Neal, a retail consultant with the Atlanta-based firm Kurt Salmon Associates, said Tuesday. "Now, they have visions of profits dancing in their heads."

Overall, 1999 has been a very strong year for the nation's merchants, and many hoped that the sales gains would continue through Christmas. With low unemployment and big gains on Wall Street, Americans have been comfortable about their financial well- being and eager to shop.

"We're buying more because the economy seems so good," said Gene Skoog, a shopper at the Mall of America outside Minneapolis.

At the start of the season, analysts projected holiday sales at traditional stores would rise a healthy 5 percent to 6 percent from last year to more than $180 billion, while online sales were expected to at least double to $6 billion.

Now, with just a few days left until Christmas, it looks as though the season is right on track, if not better than many thought it would be.

Sales at malls are up a strong 6.6 percent from the day after Thanksgiving through Sunday, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers, a trade group.

On the Internet, growth -- as expected -- is even bigger. Online market research firm BizRate.com found that the number of orders to Web merchants between Nov. 28 to Dec. 20 increased 329 percent compared with the same period a year ago.

"This has been a very strong holiday season, one of the best I've ever seen," said John Konarski, director of research for the New York-based ICSC.

With Christmas fast approaching, the pace has picked up. …

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