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Semi-Merry Numbers From Retailers

Posted on December 28, 2009 by HFN Staff

NEW YORK -- Maybe the Grinch didn't steal Christmas after all.

While there is still an all-important week left in the holiday shopping season, early numbers coming out after the post-Christmas weekend seem to suggest that the industry will eke out small gains.

According to MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse, which tracks all forms of spending, retail sales were up 3.6 percent in the Nov. 1 to Dec. 24 period. Even taking into account the extra shopping day this year, sales still rose slightly, a significant improvement from the 2.3 percent drop in the year-ago period and better than many predictions for flat or slightly off numbers this year.

And if your business was online, you did better...much better. The organization said web sales were up 15.5 percent this season, consistent with the gains this segment has been experiencing recently.

Final numbers won't be in until well into January, but retailers still have seven more shopping days to the season which this year features two post-Christmas weekends. Gift cards, returns and clearance sales are the key drivers of traffic -- and sales -- this week.