Local News

Holiday sales improve for some

SEBRING - Holiday sales were good for many local retailers despite a late Thanksgiving date that cut into the prime holiday shopping season.

Lakeshore Mall JCPenny Manager Vince Joy said the days after Christmas were not comparable to last year, but the days leading up to the holiday were "real positive."

"We are still sitting with a positive gain for the December period. So it wasn't bad," he said. "There were not a whole lot of returns yet so I think it was a 'win' for us in terms of sales."

Joy noted there was a narrower sales window of six fewer days this year with the late Thanksgiving date.

Mike Cowen, manager of Cindy's Hallmark in Lakeshore Mall, said because Thanksgiving was a week later, people were not into Christmas until later, making it a lost week of sales.

"If we would have had one more week it would have been awesome," he said. "But, it wasn't real good compared to the last few years."

Sales increased the last few days before Christmas and sales were good the day after Christmas, Cowen added. "It kind of saved us, people coming in at the end."

Cindy Mungall, owner of The DaisyGirl Shop on East Main Street in Avon Park, said her sales were almost double compared to last year, which was her first holiday season in business.

The late Thanksgiving date hurt everybody, "If we had that extra week we would have done even more," she said. "You can look at it two ways, but we look at it as a positive though."

In Lake Placid, Joyce DeSmet, owner of Olde Friends Gallery & Gifts, rushed to open her business Sept. 16 in time for the holidays.

She was "pleased" with her sales during the holiday season.

Judy Nicewicz, Caladium Arts & Crafts Co-Op president, said she hasn't yet tabulated the holiday sales.

"At least sales picked up from October and November a bit, they could be better," she noted.

Nationally, the Associated Press reports heavy spending in the final days of the mostly lackluster season sent sales up 3.5 percent between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24, according to MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, which tracks payments but doesn't give dollar figures.

Online shopping led the uptick, with spending up 10 percent to $38.91 billion between Nov. 2 and Dec. 22, research firm comScore said.

"We always have last-minute Charlies, but this year even people who normally complete shopping earlier completed shopping later," said Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at market research firm NPD Group.

Business Week reports that the holiday retail sales were weaker than they looked due to discounting.

Sales of holiday items increased 2.3 percent compared with last year, according to Mastercard data, but retailers got there by lowering prices, continuing a reliance on discounts that has had many industry observers nervous since the financial crisis.

This takes the luster off what gains were made, said Gian Fulgoni, chairman of comScore (SCOR).

"I think we'll look back at this online holiday season as one where absolute dollar sales gains in consumer spending were held back by heavy retailer price discounting that occurred in an attempt to stimulate consumer demand," he said in a statement, according to Business Week.