11/28/2004

Nation's Retailers Have a Tepid Start to Holiday Shopping Season

Nation's Retailers Have a Tepid Start to Holiday Shopping Season - from TBO.com

NEW YORK (AP) - The start of the holiday season was respectable but unimpressive for many of the nation's retailers, with consumers jamming stores and malls on Friday and pulling back as the weekend wore on.

Big chains including J.C. Penney Co. Inc. and Sears, Roebuck and Co. were pleased with their sales. But Wal-Mart Stores Inc. was less fortunate - the industry leader said its sales in the seven days that ended Friday were disappointing, and the company lowered its sales forecasts for November.

"Friday overall was strong, but Saturday was weak and disappointing, so together it was only a modest two-day performance," said Michael P. Niemira, chief economist at International Council of Shopping Centers. "Still, I continue to believe that this is not a bellwether for how the season will end up."

Wally Brewster, spokesman at Chicago-based General Growth Properties, which operates 224 malls in 44 states, said sales and traffic were strong on Friday, but "stabilized" the rest of the weekend. As a result, he expects sales for the weekend to increase in the low single digits, in line with modest expectations.

Wal-Mart's holiday weekend sales suffered because it didn't offer the deep discounts it did in past years, hoping to boost profits, analysts said. Penney and Sears did better by wooing customers with two days of big price breaks.

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