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Friday, Aug 12, 2022
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Local Retailers Optimistic About Holiday Shopping

So far the only clear result of the relentless migration of residents to Southern California has been more traffic jams, but the area’s population surge may also have an upside this holiday season stronger sales for retailers than the nation on average. With the official start of the season of hand-wringing for retailers just a few weeks away, pundits are predicting sales increases for the 2005 holiday season between 3 percent and 3.5 percent nationally. But many local retailers are projecting high single-digit and even double digit increases, a prognostication that stems from what’s been a stronger year for retail sales than has occurred nationally. The optimism comes despite worries over skyrocketing gas and energy prices, rising consumer debt levels, fears of inflation and a slowdown in real disposable income, and retailers say that it is due, at least in part, to the growing population in the area. “I believe that Los Angeles will fare differently (from the nation),” said Jeff D. Paige, store manager at the JC Penney store at the Northridge Fashion Center. “The reality is we have a lot of people moving into this area, a lot of new customers, and as long as we have that growth, we will do better than the nation.” Not that Paige or others are taking anything for granted. With few exceptions, retailers say that they will be very aggressive on pricing this holiday season. Most expect the holiday sales to begin sooner rather than later. “The discounting that took place last year probably happened a little later rather than the beginning of the season,” said Rick Forster, senior general manager of Northridge Fashion Center and Fallbrook Center in West Hills, two local General Growth properties. “We are hearing they may be starting that a little sooner than they did last year to keep the momentum going. I don’t think there’s any sell-off going on at all, but it may even out some of the sales across the holiday shopping period.” New stores So far this year, sales at the Northridge Fashion Center are up about 15 percent over last year, and Forster said he feels certain that mall-wide holiday increases will be in the double-digit range, helped in part, by the opening of a number of new stores including Aeropostale, Boarders Sports, Hollister Co. and Build-A-Bear Workshop. At Glendale Galleria sales are up 7.5 percent through August, giving marketing director Janet LaFevre “good reason to be optimistic.” LaFevre thinks rising gas prices could work in favor of malls like Glendale Galleria because they offer consumers one-stop shopping for their holiday purchases. “Customers are going to be very conscious of not going to three, four places, and that’s going to benefit us,” LaFevre said. According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, an expected sales increase of 3 percent to 3.5 percent will be slightly better than last year’s performance when retailers across the country logged a 2.3 percent gain for November and December. But the ICSC cautioned that some stores may find their holiday stockings less full than competitors’. “Overall, upcoming holiday season sales will fare ‘okay’ compared with past years and will likely be driven by price, but it will also likely be very uneven with those that can compete successfully on price doing relatively better than other retailers,” the report authors said. Quick price breaks Already, Wal-Mart has said publicly that its strategy for holiday 2005 will be very aggressive on price and many other stores seem to be leaning in the same direction. “You’re going to see price breaks sooner and you’re probably also going to see a bigger move to bringing in key item businesses,” said Jan Genovese, marketing director at Ontario-based Anchor Blue, a specialty retailer with four of its 160 stores in the San Fernando Valley. “You would want to be prepared with enough key items to be able to bring in great value at a great price.” Since its acquisition by Sun Capital Partners in 2003, Anchor Blue has significantly boosted its holiday merchandising. The retailer will have a front-and-center gift area with the theme, 20 gifts for under $20. Among the best sellers the retailer anticipates is its Bikini fragrance gift sets packaged for the holidays and priced at $18 and a collection of fuzzy embellished slippers for $10. For young men, Anchor Blue is betting on a line of screen printed tee-shirts embellished with such icons as Corona beer, licensed characters like porn stars, the Vivid girls, and one liners like “tough guys wear pink,” for $18 and beanies and skull caps priced at $12.50 to $14. JC Penney is stocking up on game room gear like casino tables and poker games and fine jewelry. “We know the customer is smart, we know the customer is looking for a bargain, and we’re doing everything we can to give it to them,” said Paige. “We’ve planned for it because we know you have to be competitive.” Jewelry, both fine and fashion seems to be a recurring theme most holiday seasons, and this one is no exception. Glendale Galleria is opening a new jewelry store from Spain, Tous, on Dec. 1 and it has already opened For Love 21, a women’s accessories specialty shop. “They carry purses, jewelry, bracelets at reasonable prices and I think that’s indicative of what people are looking for,” said LaFevre. “They want to be trendy and savvy and they want to be careful with what they’re buying.”

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