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Santa’s bag offered mixed results

While preliminary national numbers are showing a weak holiday shopping season, many local retailers are pleased with their receipts.

Ann Dittmer, owner of Annie’s Little Pots, could sum up the holiday shopping season in one word.

“Fabulous,” she said. “It was great, and people were happy.”

Dittmer said she had many local shoppers, including lots of people who chose to paint their presents in her pottery center.

Dittmer said weather played a factor with nice weather letting people get out and shop every weekend.

“It was easy to get out and walk on the sidewalks,” she said. “We’ve been blessed.”

On Tuesday, the MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, a report that keeps track of holiday spending, reported U.S. holiday retail sales this year were the weakest since 2008. Sales in the two months before Christmas increased 0.7 percent, compared to last year, well below predicted growth of 3 to 4 percent.

One factor believed to have an impact was Superstorm Sandy. Sales declined by 3.9 percent in the mid-Atlantic and 1.4 percent in the Northeast compared with last year. They rose 0.9 percent in the north central part of the country.

The West and South posted gains of between 2 percent and 3 percent, still weaker than the 3 percent to 4 percent increases expected by many retail analysts.

Other factors impacting sales were estimated to be the distraction of the presidential election, the massacre of schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., and concern over the fiscal cliff.

Another happy area retailer was Jyl Morse, owner of Hoffman’s Patterns of the Past.

“It was intense,” she said. “It was more than ever before.”

Morse said Swarovski Crystal had an “absolutely amazing” line of products that swept out of the store, and Christmas ornaments and decorative items were also big sellers.

“We feel very blessed to have customers who want to shop here,” she said.

In Spring Valley, many retailers were pleased with their results from the Christmas in the Valley event in November.

Debb Ladgenski, Spring Valley’s economic development director, said some retailers were concerned about competition from other events held that weekend, but there was a better turnout than expected, especially in gift stores such as Valley Flowers and St. Margaret’s gift shop. Ladgenski said the owner of Valley Coin, Jewelry and Pawn was pleased with the turnout.

The SpendingPulse report include sales by retailers in categories such as electronics, clothing, jewelry, luxury goods, furniture and other home goods between Oct. 28 and Dec. 24.

It is considered the first major recap of retail sales during the holiday season through Christmas Eve. A clearer picture will emerge next week as other retailers release their revenue reports.

It’s also not to late to boost holiday sales. The final week of December accounts for about 15 percent of the month’s sales, said Michael McNamara, vice president for research and analysis at MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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