Tuesday, February 23, 1999


Asia woes sent ’98
Hawaii retail sales
down 5.2%

Tourist-dominated malls
continued a yearlong slide during
the holiday season

Star-Bulletin staff


Statewide retail sales fell 5.2 percent last year as the Asian economic crisis continued to hurt major shopping centers that depend on tourist dollars.

State tax statistics and reports from major Oahu shopping centers show that holiday sales in December -- the most important month on the retail calendar -- failed to reverse a yearlong trend of sagging sales at tourist-dominated malls and flat or slightly higher sales elsewhere.

In 1998, statewide retail sales equaled $15.146 billion vs. $15.973 billion in 1997, according to state Department of Taxation records. For December, sales were $1.284 billion, down 16.6 percent from $1.539 billion in December 1997, the department said.


Christmas shopping was mostly strong at Oahu suburban shopping centers, and that put these centers up in sales figures for all of 1998.

But Ala Moana Center, the state's largest mall, and Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center in Waikiki, showed sales declines in December. These centers also were down sharply for 1998. The two malls have been hurt throughout the year by the drop in Asian tourists and the decreased spending by those tourists who did visit.

The Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau reported earlier that Japanese arrivals to Hawaii were down 6.3 percent last year and that meant about $100 million less in spending compared with 1997.

Ala Moana also has said that sales have been hampered by store closures and construction work as the center expands.

Here's a look at the major malls' results for December, the most recent month available, provided to the Star-Bulletin by the malls.

bullet Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center: Sales tumbled 15 percent in December and 24 percent for all of 1998, said Charlian Wright, marketing director.

"Decrease in arrivals into Waikiki and the value of the yen to dollar and a more value conscientious visitor contribute to the decrease in sales," Wright said.

bullet Ala Moana Center: Sales fell 4 percent in December and 16 percent for 1998, said Dwight Yoshimura, general manager.

"We had a fairly good Christmas, all things considered," he said. "As for the year, 50 percent of that drop is because certain stores were having financial problems." He mentioned Liberty House, in bankruptcy reorganization, and Woolworth, which closed last year.

Despite the decline in December, the food court had a 4 percent increase. Yoshimura said the upper level now under construction should have two restaurants open by the second quarter this year.

bullet Victoria Ward Centers: Sales rose 8.9 percent for December and 2.9 percent for 1998, said Valery O'Brien, managing director of marketing."We had a good, steady Christmas," O'Brien said. The centers include Ward Warehouse and Ward Centre in Kakaako.

O'Brien said that Office Depot will be opening next month.

bullet Kahala Mall: Sales advanced 7.72 percent for December and 4.47 percent for 1998, said Laurie Hara, marketing director. Special attractions helped increase traffic at the mall. "We had a new Christmas show on Saturdays and Sundays, and a $1,000 shopping spree (winner) every weekend."

bullet Pearlridge Center: Sales climbed 6 percent for December and 3.2 percent for 1998, said Heidi DiEugenio, marketing manager. "We were very satisfied with Christmas," DiEugenio said. "We had a sidewalk sale and special events to get people here early. Also gift certificates were up 35 percent for the season."

bullet Windward Mall: Business slipped 2 percent in December and 4 percent for 1998, said Sandi Oguma, marketing director. The JC Penney store at the mall closed last year.

But Oguma said she is encouraged by several planned store expansions, including the doubling of space for Picture This & More into a full art gallery. Pam Moniz, manager of the Cosmic Candy store, has bought out Cosmic Candy and opened Snackerdoodles and Planet Popcorn, Oguma said.

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