Upscale Retailers Will Top Sales Winners; Gold Continues To Rise

December 29, 2003

Upscale Retailers Will Top Sales Winners; Gold Continues To Rise

Though it will be another week or so before retailers know for sure how their holiday sales fared, analysts say upscale retailers will have the best news. Discounters may not end up as well, says the Wall Street Journal. The stock market's recent surge helped sell luxury goods, say analysts, while lingering worries over job losses and mounting personal debt may have hurt down-market sales. Wal Mart announced it is strugging to meet the low end of its forecast for a December sales gain of 3-5%.

Jewelry, toys and electronics were named by WSJ as the season's favorite gifts, while the apparel category was mixed. Department stores aren't expected to fare as well, though anaylsts predict upscale department stores such as Nordstrom, Saks Inc. and the Neiman Marcus Group will have their best holiday season in years. In contradiction to analysts' predictions, however, a study released on Dec. 29 by MasterCard Advisors shows that even though sales in general were up 6.5% among its cardholders, jewelry sales were down slightly from last year.

Analysts are still bullish about after-Christmas sales and say the use of gift cards and gift certificates will further boost holiday figures. Internet sellers continued their success, with ComScore Networks reporting total online spending for the week ended Dec. 21 was up 31% over last year. The online data analysis firm cited jewelry and watches as among the strongest sellers online.

Meanwhile, the price of gold kept rising through the Christmas week, with a $2.60 rise from Dec. 24 to Dec. 29. Spot gold was quoted at approximately $415 a troy ounce in London markets today, reported the Financial Times of London. This is the highest level since February 1996. Silver was up five cents during the same period, its highest level since September 1999.

by Peggy Jo Donahue

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