High-End and Post-Christmas Sales Look Good

December 23, 2003

High-End and Post-Christmas Sales Look Good

In the run-up to Christmas, as well as the days following the holiday, retail market observers predict consumers will be out spending like mad, for last-minute gifts and with gift cards they receive Christmas Day. This should help ease retailers' worries, after snow-related weaker sales earlier in December and the government's recently issued heightened security alert.

High-end retailers are reporting the strongest sales, with discounters mostly saying they will miss their predicted targets, according to the Wall Street Journal. A Neiman Marcus saleswoman in Dallas, TX, told WSJ jewelry sales were bullish and consumers were buying chandelier earrings and anything with pavé diamonds.

The bad weather earlier in the month may have helped Internet and catalog retailers, with Com Score Networks reporting that for the week ended Dec. 19, sales rose 31% from a year ago. However, the news wasn't all bad for stores in the real world. ShopperTrak, a Chicago retail-data firm, said sales on Dec. 20, the last Saturday before Christmas, rose 4.9% over the same day a year ago, with strongest sales in the Northeast, where weather was finally decent. Sales for all of last week, however, were only up 0.2% from a year earlier.

ShopperTrak reports gift cards have been unexpectedly strong sellers, which help after Christmas sales because retailers generally don't count those sales until cards are redeemed, according to WSJ. American Express concurs with the bullish outlook for gift cards, saying in a press release that its Retail Index shows 52% of consumers plan to shop during the post-holiday period, especially the day after Christmas. They will be looking for discounts, however.

by Peggy Jo Donahue

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