Monday, December 20, 1999

Isle retailers wary
about holiday sales

They're still optimistic for
year-end numbers despite
less-than-robust weekend sales

By Russ Lynch


Hawaii's retailers today weren't raving about the level of business they did in the last weekend before Christmas, but there was optimism that the year-end numbers will be strong.

Traffic at Ala Moana Center over the weekend was good and sales were definitely up, merchants said, but they sounded notes of caution.

"It was very good. We had our share of shoppers but we'll probably get our biggest push this weekend," said Dwight Yoshimura, senior vice president of Growth Management of Hawaii, which manages Ala Moana Center.

He said shoppers may be holding out for sales that usually happen right before Christmas.

"Shoppers are savvy. They're waiting for the sale," which will probably come Wednesday, as stores try hard to unload merchandise, he said. Some also may be waiting for the traditional after-Christmas sales, Yoshimura said.

While Saturday sales were good at the center, they weren't as strong as they were the previous weekend, he said.

Gill Berger, general manager of Sears Ala Moana, seemed to make a point of using the word "good," rather than words like "frenzied" that retail managers on the mainland used to describe last weekend.

"As we expected, Saturday was our best day of the year. Yesterday was not as strong," Berger said. "We had a good day yesterday, but I would not characterize our traffic or our increases the way it (retailing) is being outlined on the mainland," he said.

Berger said Sears Ala Moana's sales may have been hurt because mall construction has made access to the store more difficult.

Hawaii merchants generally indicated they won't be truly comfortable until they count the dollars after the last shopping day of the year. "We're pretty much on track. It's kind of a nervous time for retailers. We have only about 60 percent of the month in," John Monahan, president of Liberty House said today.

"Our year from a profit standpoint will be much, much stronger than 1998," Monahan said. He said certain departments were very strong, with a lot of activity in housewares and fine jewelry for example. "(But) a lot can happen over the next two weeks," he said.

All retailers can do, he said, is "keep our fingers crossed and hope it finishes well."

Jan Berman, president of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii, said reports she had received through late this morning showed strong sales. "Everything I've heard this weekend is that sales were very, very good, very strong," she said.

On Friday, Berman said people seemed to be shopping earlier this year, leaving retailers a little concerned that they might not get the last-minute rush they wanted. Sales are up for the year, she said.

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