Wednesday, December 26, 2001

Shirley Kaneshiro of Waimanalo was out shopping early today at Ala Moana Shopping Center. She had her granddaughter, Keala Mau, with her.

Early shoppers
find bargains, easy
parking, smaller crowds

But many retailers did not
wait until after Christmas this
year to put items on sale

By Lisa Asato

Early after-Christmas shoppers at Ala Moana Center found easy parking and plenty of bargains this morning.

Kris and Donny Remington, of Mililani, had a plan to get in and out of the Disney store quickly.

Kris Remington said she has had to wait in line there for up to an hour and a half in previous years, so today her husband stood in line while she shopped.

However, this year, the number of people in the store was "definitely less than previous years," she said.

The selection also wasn't as good, she said, "probably because they put all the Christmas stuff on sale before Christmas this year."

The Remingtons left the store with four large shopping bags of Christmas items purchased at 75 percent off.

Gail Kawasaki arrived at 7 a.m., when Macy's opened, to "at least look" and ended up buying several items.

Scott Lum checks out the firecrackers at Daiei on Kaheka Street. Fireworks for New Year's Eve went on sale today.

"To me, there's less people down here. There's usually a lot more the day after Christmas. I don't know if it's the economy. Even the parking was pretty empty I was surprised," she said.

Carol Pregill, executive director of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii, said consumers appear to be the winners this holiday season as "the number and scope of promotions of discounted merchandise was probably greater than it's been in a while."

Retailers at some Ala Moana stores said they were happy with sales so far this Christmas.

"The weeks after September 11 were pretty hard for us, but the two weeks up to Christmas were a frenzy," said Deron Tongpalan, general manager of Guess Ala Moana.

Tongpalan said sales were about the same as last year.

He said Guess started discounting two weeks before Christmas. But he said the discounting didn't hurt gross sales because once the customers got into the store, they bought more stuff.

Holiday discounts were helped by slower retail sales this October, November and December over last year, Pregill said.

In the end, the retailers, spurred to offer more and greater discounts, may have to deal with less revenue because of heavier discounting, she said. "The amount and what happens we have to wait to see. We won't know probably until the second quarter of next year when everything shakes down."

But Colleen Nakasone, the assistant manager at The Sharper Image, said her store's sales were higher than last year and they expected to do a pretty good after-Christmas business.

"People are just drawn to the mall because they have the Christmas money and they want to get Christmas wrap at 50 percent off," she said.

Colleen Gjerde, left, and her mother Anne, both of Mountville, Pa., load up on wrapping paper for next year's Christmas season at the Target store in York, Pa., today.

Stores on the mainland were reporting lower than usual turnout and steep discounts on what is traditionally one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

The seven days leading up to the New Year typically account for about 10 percent of total holiday sales. Merchants are hoping the deals attract enough business to recoup some of the sales lost earlier in the season. They also need to make room for spring goods, which start coming in at the end of the month.

"Retailers have to be concerned with getting their stores ready for the spring-selling season, and they must sell everything by mid to late January -- no matter what the cost," said C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group, based in Charleston, S.C.

Beemer said retailers don't want to repeat the mistakes of a year ago, when they couldn't move merchandise fast enough. "A lot of retailers were still having clearance sales in February, and couldn't bring in their spring merchandise," he said.

Many stores had cut back on holiday inventories because of the slowdown, but those efforts weren't enough. As a result, many retailers began discounting early.

"Everyone had such good sales before Christmas," said Sally Moore-Rafferty of Selkirk, N.Y., who was buying Christmas wrap and other holiday items for next year. They had been on sale at 50 percent off before, and Macy's advertised an additional 10 percent off.

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