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December 23rd, 2009Season very merry at malls

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by Nina Wu

While snowstorms may have resulted in lost weekend sales for East Coast shopping centers, the malls in sunny Honolulu ushered in plenty of crowds.

“It was fantastic,” said Fred Paine, manager of Pearlridge Center. “From what I’m hearing, merchants are extremely excited. People were spending almost like the good old days.”

The parking lot at Pearlridge, Oahu’s second-largest mall, was packed during the weekend, with all 7,000 spots filled, Paine said, with some cars even parking along the wall by the watercress farm along Kamehameha Highway. Merchants seemed upbeat, he said, and some were expecting higher sales than last year.

The National Retail Federation forecast a 1 percent decline in U.S. holiday sales this year compared to last year.

“Retailers know the final lap counts the most and are planning to emphasize promotions and discounts to bring in last-minute shoppers,” said Tracy Mullin, NRF president and chief executive officer. “As Christmas Day creeps closer, retailers will be ready for an influx of procrastinators, from those who are checking the final names off their list to millions who haven’t even started shopping.”

Discount stores and department stores are expected to field the most holiday traffic this season, while electronic stores and clothing boutiques are also expected to do well.

But even local fine jewelry and arts stores are doing well this season.

Karon Chang, owner of Jeff Chang Pottery & Fine Crafts, which has boutiques at Pearlridge Center and Ward Centers, said sales were going well this year.

“They’re certainly not what they were a couple of years ago, but better than last year,” said Chang. “People are relaxing a little bit, and are not as fearful.”

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