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Retailers Report Holiday Gains

NEW YORK — Retail same-store sales growth of 3.5% during the month of December indicated an “OK” performance that varied from chain to chain, observers said last week.

The International Council of Shopping Centers here, which tracked the results of 25 major retail chains, said same-store sales came in at the low end of its 3.5% to 4% forecast, acknowledging that its prediction of a busy final week of shopping before Christmas did not come to fruition.

Kantar Retail, Columbus, Ohio, noted 3.6% sales improvement among 24 retailers it tracked, representing an increase from 3.1% sales growth in November and an increase over last December’s 3.2% gain. The results showed consumers following through on intentions to spend more, although among discounters and upscale stores, primarily.

“The holiday results reflect trends we can continue to expect in the new year. We’re seeing weak-to-modest growth overall that hides pockets of strength skewed toward upscale retailers and value-focused retailers that win over shoppers at the expense of their competitors,” Frank Badillo, senior economist for Kantar Retail, said in a statement.

The sales results showed food, drug and mass retailers lagging apparel and accessory stores for the five-week period that ended Jan. 1, Kantar said. Among stores selling food, Costco reported 7% U.S. comps sparked by fuel sales, while Target reported 1.6% sales growth, Walgreen 0.4% and Rite Aid 3.6%.

Other winners appeared to be Internet retailers, who saw a surge in spending during the holiday season, analysts said. But retailers of all stripes could be paying for that sales growth during January and February “retail hangover,” according to a report last week from America’s Research Group.

ARG, based in Charleston, S.C., said shoppers tend to run up credit bills shopping online, and will cut back spending while they pay off those debts. Surveys by ARG indicated that 43.8% of shoppers exceeded their spending plans and one-third of shoppers used credit cards — up from 16% last year.

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