Electronics remain strong, but this season shoppers may be looking for an old-fashioned Christmas.
Retailers report strong sales today and expectations for a good season in what analysts feared may be soft in terms of consumer confidence and buying power.
The popular doll of choice this year is the Bratz doll.
Gina Heboldt, Target manager, said in terms of toys for children the old favorites were coming back this year with strong sales of toys like Sit and Spin and Lincoln Logs. Trivial Pursuit 20th anniversary games were popular along with retro items like lava lamps. Other popular buys were sleds and snowboards.
Heboldt said a surprise came with the popularity of the karaoke machines. No surprise came with strong sales for electronics and DVD players and the Bratz doll. Rescue heroes and Hot Wheels were strong in sales for boys.
Heboldt said the hard-to-get item this year is the Fur Real Cat, a robotic interactive feline.
At Kmart, Manager Tony Middlesworth said the morning produced an excellent sales day.
Middlesworth said it was too early for figures, but he believed there was more foot traffic in the store this year than last.
"So, it's been a stellar holiday," he said.
Popular items reflected the traditional holiday theme seen elsewhere with strong sales of board games like Monopoly and others.
DVDs are the item of choice and electronics remain strong along with the Play Station games.
"Bratz seem to be the doll of choice and also the Leap Pad interactive learning system," Middlesworth said.
He also credited the fair weather with the strong sale of Christmas lights. Middlesworth said Kmart was already doing better in sales this year than last year in terms of sales for decorations.
"I feel we are going to have a strong Christmas season," he said. "I've heard the fears, but I haven't seen them. We are doing quite well."
At Wal-Mart, store manager Kirk Helmberger reported strong sales in Game Boy Advance, special sales had the 27-inch TVs sold out. And Helmberger said a surprise came in good jewelry sales. Also popular were digital cameras and the expected electronics. Helmberger said the store opened at 5 a.m. to try to get ahead of the early rush and that worked well this year.
Cynthia Sayles Albers, J.C. Penney manager, said customers were lined up outside the doors at 6 a.m.
And while they have predictions, such as strong home furnishings sales, Albers said retailers like Penney's have to wait to see what customers will be interested in buying.
"We have predictions, but we're never sure until they come through the doors," she said. "We really don't know until we open what is going to be hot and what is not."
This morning women's, men's and children's coats and winter apparel were strong sellers. Another hot spot was fine jewelry.
Albers said the warm, sunny weather was helping today and she said expectations are for a strong season.
"I think consumer confidence has just come back again and it always does at the holiday," Albers said. While this holiday season coming with the recession is not expected to be the strongest ever in terms of sales, Albers said: "We sure do like what we see today."
Michael Baker, research director for the International Council of Shopping Centers based in New York City, recently released a report stating the short 26 shopping days until Christmas matters less than the state of the economy for consumers.
The center's research actually found longer seasons have often yielded lower sales. For the past five years each shopping season has been longer than the preceding year, until this year.
Last year there were 32 shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The last time the season was down to 26 days was 1996.
The economy and consumer confidence will have more to do with how well retailers do this season. For consumers the shorter shopping season is expected to have at least one effect -- dealing with more crowds as everyone pushes their shopping into the limited days ahead.
Thanksgiving weekend accounted for 8.4 percent of holiday sales in malls for the 2001 season. Last year the Dec. 17-24 period had 34 percent of holiday sales in mall locations. The next highest shopping sales week came Dec. 10-16.
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