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October sales offer relief to merchants

November 5, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Consumers, enticed by cooler weather and an improving economy, spent a little more in October, handing the retail industry its second consecutive monthly sales gain after more than a year of declines.Memories of last year's dismal shopping season have retailers looking for new ways to lure customers back to their stores.

"I think it is going to get a little bit better," said economist Jack Kyser. "Locally you are looking at a one to two percent increase. That is not great because you are making a comparison to a very bad 2008."

Kyser says some stores are waiting to see how they do this Christmas and by early next year several may go out of business.

On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, many stores at the Glendale Galleria will open earlier than usual, hoping to rack up strong sales.

"Many retailers are opening up either at midnight, 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. and the entire shopping center opens at 5 a.m.," said Glendale Galleria spokeswoman Janet LaFevre.

Analysts say that people who wait till the last minute to do their holiday shopping this year may have a tough time finding the items they really want.

"Merchants are not going to get caught with too much merchandise," said Kyser. "We are telling people not to wait till the week before Christmas and expect to find a lot of bargains. You are probably going to find more empty shelves than bargains."

Concerns about the economy and rising unemployment cause shoppers to tighten their purse strings. But this year many people appear to be ready to spend a little bit more.

"I still have my nieces that I have to buy for," said shopper Sherry Bracken. "You just can't stop shopping for kids because it is tough economic times. I expect I will continue to buy Christmas presents for those who are near and dear to me."

Retailers are ready to welcome shoppers back.


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