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Holiday Postscript: Shopping for Bargains, and Exchanging Gifts

December 27, 1985

Undated (AP) _ Shoppers are flocking to the nation’s stores to take advantage of post- Christmas markdowns, but the sales pace is not quite as hectic as usual because the holiday fell at mid-week for the first time in 11 years and severe weather hit several regions.

The search for bargains is the traditional postscript to the Christmas season, which this year produced widely mixed results for the nation’s major retailers. But their performance overall was satisfactory, even though the season was six days shorter this year, analysts said Thursday.

″After-Christmas sales today are excellent, like Christmas wrapping paper and cards. Even though it is cold out, there is much activity in the stores,″ said Barbara Palazzolo, a spokeswoman for K mart Corp. in Troy, Mich.

Rod Bitz, a spokesman for Dayton-Hudson Corp. in Minneapolis, said sales were brisk at that company’s stores.

At the Glendale Galleria mall near Los Angeles, shoppers got off to a slow start. But before midday, they were jamming stores to exchange gifts and take advantage of prices reduced between 20 percent and 70 percent.

Beth Schooley, marketing director at Capital Mall in Olympia, Wash., said sales were good even though many people had to return to work after a one-day holiday. She speculated that students on vacation helped sales.

But Dan Melin, sales and marketing manager for the J.C. Penney store in the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Ill., a Chicago suburb, said: ″The weather has definitely slowed it down. I think the weather will probably even it out and spread it over a few days.″

As for holiday sales overall, ″We had a very strong season and are feeling very positive about it,″ said Charles Self, a vice president of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the fast-growing discount chain based in Bentonville, Ark.

December sales at Wal-Mart, the nation’s seventh largest retailer, will be about 10 percent higher than a year ago, after discounting the results of stores opened this year, Self said.

At Sears, Roebuck & Co., the largest retailer in the country, the picture was less rosy.

″We’re encouraged by the strong finish,″ said Ernie Arms, a spokesman at Sear’s headquarters in Chicag. But, he added, ″It’s still touch and go whether our sales for the total period will be slightly higher or slightly lower than last year.″

The last time Sears’ December sales fell from the previous year was in 1978, he said.

The Christmas period is crucial for retailers, producing more than half of their revenues and profits for the year. The holiday season, which formally opens the day after Thanksgiving, began six days later than its Nov. 22 start in 1984.

For the major retailers overall, sales will be up 4 percent to 5 percent over 1984, which is an average performance for Christmas, said Tom Tashjian, a retail analyst with the investment firm Prudential-Bache Securities Inc.

″An average Christmas is very acceptable,″ he said.

Monroe Greenstein, an analyst with Bear Stearns & Co., predicted K mart Corp., the No. 2 retail chain, would report a drop in sales for its stores open more than a year, while No. 3 J.C Penney Co. might have a slight increase.

Since last spring, department stores that specialize in higher quality goods have performed better than general merchandisers like Sears. Greenstein said he expected department stores to post 7 percent to 9 percent sales gains in December over 1984, vs. low single-digit gains for other companies.

Retail analysts said the fourth-quarter profit picture was good because the companies kept their inventories under control and did not need to resort to drastic price-cutting to move surplus merchandise.

The retailers’ profit for the three-month period ending in late January should be up 10 percent, Tashjian said.

X-12-26-85 1920EST

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