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February 2nd, 2011Jan US Retail Sales Improve

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by Claudia Hirsch
iMarketNews.com

New York – January consumer spending extended the holiday uptrend at many U.S. shopping centers, but urban malls are still struggling, according to mall managers around the country.

The U.S. retail industry ended a year of repair with a healthy holiday season that, for many malls, carried through into January despite weather-induced hiccups. Discounting remains energetic, but as in December, is leveling. Restaurant commerce is also coming back, though in some areas its recovery is slower than in the rest of the mall. Urban shopping centers are still struggling, however, beset by high unemployment that even value retailers can’t fully counter.

At a mall just outside Baltimore, December sales delivered and January commerce is meeting expectations.

“This was the strongest holiday season we’ve had in several years,” said Charles Crerand, senior general manager of Towson Town Center Mall, in Towson, Maryland, which is home to 200 stores, including Macy’s and upscale Nordstrom, as well as four full-service restaurants. “January traffic is probably typical-to-better.”

Crerand described 2010 business as “very, very good” following a softer performance in 2009. The holidays brought improved business to most store categories vs. the year before, and discounts weren’t any deeper than in 2009, he said. Likewise, January sale offers have also been roughly on par with a year ago, and restaurant business has been bustling, he said.

“We were up most of the year, and starting in the fourth quarter it really picked up,” Crerand said. Mall patrons appear to be less fearful and frugal than in 2008 and 2009, he said, and from what he’s observed elsewhere in the area, the same is also true.

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