Shop­pers crowd malls in Christ­mas count­down

The Pak Banker - - International3 -

NEW YORK: Packed malls? Healthy gains in hol­i­day spend­ing? It's be­gin­ning to look at least a lit­tle like a pre­re­ces­sion Christ­mas.

Amer­i­cans spent more on cloth­ing, lux­ury goods and even fur­ni­ture, de­liv­er­ing healthy gains across the board, ac­cord­ing to MasterCard Ad­vi­sors' Spend­ingPulse, which tracks spend­ing across all trans­ac­tions in­clud­ing cash. The on­line cat­e­gory con­tin­ued to be a bright spot. The big ex­cep­tion was con­sumer elec­tron­ics, dragged down by deep dis­count­ing of TVs amid a glut. That area was vir­tu­ally un­changed from a year ago.

"This is the first nor­mal Christ­mas in three years," said Michael McNamara, vice pres­i­dent of re­search and anal­y­sis for Spend­ingPulse. He said there is "gen­uine de­mand" for a va­ri­ety of prod­ucts, even higher-ticket items.

Sales of cloth­ing rose 9.8 per­cent, with par­tic­u­lar strength in men's cloth­ing. Jew­elry rev­enue rose 2.6 per­cent and fur­ni­ture rose 3.4 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to Spend­ingPulse, whose data cov­ered the pe­riod from Oct. 31 through Satur­day com­pared with the same pe­riod a year ago.

Malls re­ported higher traf­fic over the week­end, in­clud­ing the Satur­day be­fore Christ­mas, known as "Su­per Satur­day." It's one of the busiest shop­ping days of the year. Re­search firm Shop­perTrak ex­pects it will be the third-busiest this year. The lack of any ma­jor storms na­tion­wide was a boon for shop­pers.

The strong num­bers are en­cour­ag­ing to re­tail­ers, who only this fall re­mained wor­ried that the in­ven­tory they or­dered ear­lier in the year when the eco­nomic re­cov­ery looked stronger might end up be­ing too much.

But af­ter a slow­down in spend­ing this sum­mer, spend­ing has picked up amid more pos­i­tive eco­nomic signs. McNamara said that there's no ev­i­dence of emer­gency dis­count­ing and that stores have ap­pro­pri­ate lev­els of in­ven­tory.

Robin Lewis, CEO of The Robin Re­port, a re­tail in­sid­ers' news­let­ter, said the spend­ing stems from three fac­tors: con­sumers have been pay­ing down their debt slightly, the sav­ings rate has de­creased slightly and work­ing hours have in­creased, partly due to sea­sonal de­mand.

"Those three things put a few more bucks in their pocket," which be­comes sign­f­i­cant

with

pent-up com­bined de­mand.

Still, spend­ing is still be­low pre-re­ces­sion lev­els in many cat­e­gories. McNamara es­ti­mated that fur­ni­ture is about 20 per­cent be­low the level be­fore the Great Re­ces­sion, while lux­ury and jew­elry sales are about 10 per­cent be­low the peak be­fore the big down­turn. Cloth­ing sales are re­cov­er­ing faster.

At the Mall of Amer­ica in Bloom­ing­ton, Minn., the nation's largest mall, Pub­lic Re­la­tions Di­rec­tor Dan Jasper said a big snow­storm the week­end be­fore that closed the mall early had shop­pers pack­ing the mall to catch up. Pre­lim­i­nary re­ports showed 200,000 came to the mall Satur­day, mak­ing it one of its busiest days ever and busiest day so far this year. "Peo­ple are a lit­tle pan­icked. -Afp

CEN­TU­RION: South Africa cel­e­brates af­ter win­ning by an in­nings and 25 runs dur­ing day 5 of the 1st Test match be­tween South Africa and In­dia at Su­perS­port Park on De­cem­ber 20 in Cen­tu­rion, South Africa. -Ap

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