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Tuesday, November 30, 1999



Hawaii posts
biggest spending
gain in nation

One agency says check
purchases were up 7.8%
over the weekend

By Treena Shapiro
Star-Bulletin

Tapa

Holiday shoppers handed isle retailers the gift of hope during the opening weekend of the Christmas shopping season.

"It was good, not great, but good," for Sears at Ala Moana, said Gill Berger, general manager.

Sales this weekend have left Berger cautiously optimistic. "The last few years have been a challenge for retail in Hawaii," he said. "We're still very encouraged that it'll be a good Christmas season for retail in Hawaii."

Berger said positive indicators are a firming of sales during the past few months, a strengthening hotel occupancy rate and the coming new year.

"I think millennium visitor business will be very strong," he said.

Sears has increased its stock from last year to ensure that the big sellers -- Pokemon games and toys, "Blue's Clues" apparel and home electronics -- are available. "We're bullish on Hawaii, so we have more inventory than we did last year," Berger said.

Berger expected that sales will peak on one of the two Saturdays immediately before Christmas.

Tapa

At Eagle Hardware in Waikele, the past weekend's scene maintained the status quo. "It was crazy," said manager Dora Myhre. "It's always crazy when it comes to Christmas tree season here."

But Christmas tree customers know the routine, Myhre said. "People come here early in the morning. They have their own scissors, their own gloves," she said.

"I think everyone here knows the system."

The store sold some 1,500 live trees last weekend, and sold out of icicle lights for house decorating, but that's typical. "We normally run out of Christmas trees and Christmas lights before it even hits Christmas," Myhre said.

Tapa

At Wal-Mart in Mililani, the weekend sales were on par with last year.

"We hope it maintains the same level as last year," manager Wendell Chong said.

"Last year we had a good year. Of course, we always like it to be better."

At Sports Authority on Ward Avenue, sales were better. The store, which opened at 6 a.m. Friday, saw overall weekend sales for its three Hawaii stores increase 8 percent from last year.

This increase matches up with statistics from an Atlanta-based company that tracks purchases by checks.

TeleCheck Retail Index calculations for spending during the three-day weekend showed buying with checks was up 7.8 percent in Hawaii from the year-earlier weekend in the same stores.

Hawaii showed the biggest increase in the country, topping the 7.7 percent increase in New York City and the 5.2 percent rise nationally.

Tapa

According to TeleCheck, checks account for one-third of retail spending.

Sports Authority's Yokio Yukama said the greatest increase was on Friday, when certain items were on sale between 6 a.m. and noon. "People were frantically shopping to get the good deals."

Although sporting goods such as portable backboards and table games such as pool and air hockey, sold well, the hot item was a surprise: Three models of tabletop waterfall ornaments sold out in the first two hours. "I guess a lot of people bought it for the person who has everything," Yukama said.

Tapa

K-B Toys said sales improved this year, up 5 percent at the Windward Mall outlet and at least as good as last year at Ala Moana, where computer problems prevented exact figures.

Managers said that Furbies are still selling well, but that Pokemon has taken over as far as the must-have toys.

The variety of Pokemon products have kept the toys from selling out, although such games as Pokemon Monopoly and the Pokemon Master Training Game ran out fairly early, according to Don Cregg, manager at the Ala Moana store.

"We can definitely get more before Christmas," Cregg said. "We get shipments weekly."

After last year's Furby hunters formed a line all the way to Ala Moana's center stage, management prepared this year by opening three additional registers for the 5:30 a.m. Friday opening, and limited the number of people who could be in the store at any given time.

Diane DeCorte, general manager at Borders Books and Music at Ward Centre, said traffic through the store was slightly better than last year, with appearances by Makaha Sons, Willy K and Amy, and Sam Choy helping to bring in customers.

"I do expect to improve over last year. I was out at the Waikele store last year and last year was better than the previous year.

"I thought retailers in general had a better experience than they did the previous year."



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