By  on January 4, 2005

NEW YORK — What a difference a week makes.

While stores previously bemoaned what appeared to be a poor holiday season right up to Christmas, retailers across the price spectrum on Monday couldn’t contain their raves about the post-Christmas week, which many said put them back on track for the five-week December sales period.

Mostly, they were thankful for bargain-crazed consumers conditioned to shop after Christmas when markdowns are at their steepest and when shoppers have cash, gifts to exchange and gift cards to redeem. The late lift also came from tourists taking advantage of the weak dollar, and from favorable weather.

“There is one argument that the period between Dec. 26 and Jan. 1 is one great American shopping holiday and that the news has gone out overseas,” said Ron Klein, chairman and chief executive of Macy’s East. “There were a lot of people from around the world shopping Herald Square. We were amazed. The post-Christmas performance, indeed the last 10 days, exceeded expectations. I was pleased to see an increase in the average unit retail price across the board, whether it was women’s ready-to-wear, or center core,” which includes cosmetics, fragrance and accessories.

“It was a great week. Ready-to-wear was just unreal, and a lot sold at full price,” said Michael Gould, chairman and ceo of Bloomingdale’s. “Our business in Florida was just unbelievable. We transitioned it to spring very quickly and got a tremendous play. California was also very strong.”

He said Bloomingdale’s would come out with an increase in December (though he wouldn’t specify how big) even though the chain reduced its post-Christmas promotional stance, including offering no doorbusters. “That being said, we wish there was more [business] but we feel good about spring, though spring is a tougher comparison,” said Gould.

Federated, which operates Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, is expected to report low single-digit comp increases for December. May Co. is expected to be in the negative zone. Most retailers will report comp-store sales on Thursday.

Ken Lakin, chairman and ceo of Boscov’s, the private, Pennsylvania-based department store chain, said, “Business did come on strong at the end, and people seemed to use their gift cards right away. They’re getting a good bargain and they’re still finding a selection of sizes and colors.” He added that due to traffic picking up close to Christmas and the week after, “we met or maybe exceeded our projections for the five-week December period.”

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