(Orange, Texas)

Local News

December 27, 2010

Holiday sales, going strong, may be best ever

ORANGE — From the looks of half-empty store shelves in local retail stores, holiday spending in Southeast Texas is trending with the rest of the nation. Early on, it appears the Christmas 2010 shopping season was the best in three years, the Associated Press reported Monday.

Both locally and across the nation, spending has been surprisingly strong from the start when retailers rolled out Black Friday sales to lure customers into the store the day after Thanksgiving.

“We could not have asked for better weather. Cold weather gets people in the Christmas mood,” Lorenzo Garza, JC Penney’s store manager, said in a previous interview.

Garza said Black Friday sales were far better than what was seen the year before.

About 400 people, he estimated, were waiting to get in the store when the doors opened in the early morning the day after Thanksgiving.

By the last couple of shopping days, retailers from large to small establishments were reporting similar experiences — people were buying more this holiday season.

Janet Montagne, owner of Serendipity Chicks in Bridge City also descibed 2010 as a thriving Christmas shopping season.

At its new 1990 Texas Avenue location, Montagne said the boutique had been very busy with Christmas shoppers.

“Sales are really, really nice. It took a couple of weeks to kick in, but we are busy now,” she said just as Christmas Eve shoppers starting coming in in droves. “It’s crazy in the store now.”

People are spending more this year, she said.

Rita Theis, owner of the Painted Porch in Groves said shopping in the city’s downtown district, where her gift shop is located, was brisk.

People seemed to be  in a good mood, she said.

By Christmas Eve, Garza said merchandise was flying off the shelves at JC Penney. Many of the typical gift-giving items were gone, and some sizes were picked over.

Port Arthur-area shoppers were much the same as those in the rest of the nation.

According to the AP, revenue for the holiday season is on track to grow at its strongest rate since 2006. Total spending for November and December could exceed 2007 sales — the best season on record.

In another sign of strength, post-Christmas shoppers are doing more buying and less returning as they head back to stores to use gift cards and browse markdowns.

Shoppers spent more on their family and friends and for the first time since before the Great Recession, treated themselves and even their pets. And after Christmas, even an East Coast blizzard didn’t kill the mood as they headed to stores armed with gift cards and eyeing a new crop of discounts.

Mall of America’s spokesman Dan Jasper reported Monday that shoppers are doing more buying and less returning this week than a year ago.

“People are definitely treating themselves,” particularly to jeans and accessories, he said.

Spending was strong since the start of the holiday shopping season in November and the momentum continued through Christmas Eve, a surprising sign of strength for the economy. Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.

The National Retail Federation predicts spending this holiday season, Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, will reach $451.5 billion, up 3.3 percent over last year. That forecast was upgraded earlier this month based on a robust November. That would be the biggest increase since 2006, and the largest total since a record $452.8 billion in 2007.

Strong after-Christmas sales could make this year the biggest holiday sales period of all time. MasterCard Advisors’ SpendingPulse, which monitors all transactions including cash, will be releasing figures through Dec. 24 late Monday.

After-Christmas sales make up about 15 percent of holiday sales. The blizzard cut some stores’ hours Sunday and Monday, but some analysts think shoppers will be undeterred given the new resiliency they have shown this season.

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