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Xmas shopping starts strong
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2006-11-28 09:13
Retailers got what they wanted last weekend - a strong start to the 2006 holiday shopping season as consumers crowded stores in search of huge discounts on flat-screen TVs and other hot merchandise.

Stores and malls that opened as early as midnight on Friday drew a bigger-than-expected turnout. Robust sales for the first day of the season offset slower business as the weekend wore on, according to early reports.

Thursday was the American Thanksgiving holiday, and the day after is considered the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season.

The biggest winners appeared to be electronics chains such as Best Buy Co Inc and popular-priced department stores including J.C. Penney Co, which pulled in shoppers with good deals.

Yet Wal-Mart Stores Inc, which promised the most aggressive discounting ever, was an exception, announcing on Saturday that same-store sales for November will be slightly below its already lackluster forecast. Wal-Mart has struggled for months to appeal to both higher-income shoppers and low-price fans.

The question for the retail industry overall is whether the bargain hunters who raided stores for early bird specials over the weekend will have the same zeal as they shop between now and the end of the season, when discounts may not be as steep.

"The hysteria has come down a bit, but it was a great start," said Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak RCT Corp, which tracks total sales at more than 45,000 mall-based retail outlets. But he said the true measure of the season is whether "retailers can sustain the loyalty and excitement" until the end.

Martin expects that total retail sales for the first weekend of the season will be higher than last year, boosted by Friday's better-than-expected business. Total sales rose six percent to US$8.96 billion that day, compared to a year earlier, according to ShopperTrak. The company planned to report Saturday's results late yesterday.

Retailers' strong performance was a direct result of aggressive discounting and promotions, designed to get consumers to start shopping early. More stores and malls opened at midnight on Friday, and Toys R Us Inc and Sears Holdings Corp's Sears stores opened at 5am, an hour earlier than in the past.
Source:Shanghai Daily 
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