NEW YORK — Ticktock. Ticktock. Time waits for no man — especially procrastinat-ing holiday shoppers. All around the country, cash registers buzzed at department stores and specialty boutiques as hordes of people braved seemingly eternal lines to buy their loved ones that perfect gift.

Is the retail landscape really all good cheer, though? Not quite. Christmas 2002 will go down as a dogfight for business, with steep and steady markdowns, "private" sales that actually were open to anyone, and stores barely making their plans — even the great Wal-Mart. Some companies even advertised post-Christmas price cuts practically a week before Santa arrives. Industry-wide, sportswear sales, with the exception of contemporary areas, have been disappointing.

But, as in any season, there have been some bright spots. Friday after Thanksgiving there was a big rush to the malls, and with the blast of arctic temperatures, decent business in outerwear, hats, scarves and all sorts of cold weather accessories. Also, sweaters, leather and suedes, jewelry and men’s accessories have helped keep spirits up at retail. Last week, WWD asked stores for their best selling items. No big surprises here. The classics — toasty scarves, techy mP3 toys and elegant eveningwear — still move. Meanwhile, fashionistas proved that a wayward economy won’t get in their way and flocked to anywhere that offers Pucci, specifically the beach bags, towels and bathingsuits for resort. And jeans from denim de jour line Paper Denim and Cloth have sold well, as have Juicy Couture’s track suits in velour or cashmere. Quirkier items, such as Paul Frank’s printed undies or CeCe Cord’s puppy sweaters, were snapped up, too.Here, some of the season’s cozier sellers. Stocking stuffers, anyone?

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