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Christmas shopping exceeds expectations

Christmas has passed, the toys are a few days old, and shoppers once again fill area stores and malls looking for that after-Christmas bargain.

Friday, December 28, 2001

Christmas has passed, the toys are a few days old, and shoppers once again fill area stores and malls looking for that after-Christmas bargain.

Next year’s Christmas shopping season may have kicked off Wednesday as droves of people armed with checkbooks, credit cards, and old-fashioned cash returned to malls and retail outlets returning items and picking up some gifts for next year.

Shoppers have even turned to the Internet to find bargains from national retail chains, local shops and shops that exist only in cyberspace. Traditional brick-and-mortar businesses such as K-Mart have turned to the information super-highway for discount sales. The K-Mart website, http://www.bluelight.com, list sales up to 70-percent off on the company’s holiday items such as Christmas trees and trim-a-tree products.

Christmas sales were expected to be on the slow and low side. The thought among retailers was that Christmas was coming but Santa Claus wasn’t.

Well, Santa came and some stores, including the Wal-Mart mega chain, did well despite the looming recession. Increased consumer confidence since Sept. 11 is one factor economic analysts are pointing at for the boost in trading on Wall Street earlier this week. Traders made a rally on Wednesday, which came after Wal-Mart announced that sales from Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve were in the upper mid-single-digit range – higher than expected. This drove stock in the company up $1.22 to $58.35.

"Christmas sales haven’t been spectacular but what these new numbers are telling you is that they may not have been as terrible as feared," Larry Wachtel, market analyst for Prudential told the Associated Press. "I think that’s helping sentiment."