Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Better-Than-Expected Sales Reported by Many Big Retailers

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Better-Than-Expected Sales Reported by Many Big Retailers

Article excerpt

NEW YORK (AP) -- Sales were better than expected for many of the nation's big retail chains last month as shoppers packed the nation's stores and malls during the Christmas season.

Even with all of the hype over the Internet, bricks-and-mortar merchants still fared well in December, and most didn't lose significant business to their Web rivals.

The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi retail sales index, which tracks sales at about 80 U.S. chains, rose 6.6 percent in December, above the expected 5.5 percent to 6 percent. It was the index's highest level since 1992. With the robust sales figures, Wall Street analysts Thursday raised their fourth quarter earnings estimates for many retailers, including Wal-Mart, Federated Department Stores and Tiffany.

"There is no doubt that consumers went on a buying binge this Christmas and really let go in their spending," said Kurt Barnard, president of the consulting firm Barnard's Retail Trend Report in Upper Montclair, N.J.

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

Consumers continued their shopping spree during the holiday season. They piled into stores over the Thanksgiving weekend, and kept spending into the new year.

Sales were so good that many chains didn't have to slash prices drastically to clear out inventory. That will help boost profits during the quarter because they sold more goods at higher prices.

"Most promotions that they did were planned and they limited their clearance business," said Jeffrey Feiner, a retail analyst at Lehman Brothers. "It has to help the bottom line."

Discount chains had a strong December. Not only did shoppers buy toys, electronics and Christmas decorations at their stores, but they also stocked up on water, flashlights and batteries to prepare for possible Y2K problems. …

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