WASHINGTON — Holiday sales in most regions of the U.S. were higher in 2010 than the previous year and in some cases beat expectations, according to the Beige Book released by the Federal Reserve on Wednesday.


In general, retailers in the Fed’s 12 districts reported anecdotal sales improvements for the period from late November through the end of December. Stores in Boston, Richmond, Chicago, Atlanta and Kansas City said customers reacted favorably to promotions and discounts. Retailers in San Francisco and Philadelphia indicated less of a reliance on discounting, and merchants in New York, Dallas and Minneapolis said retail prices were stable.


In the run up to Christmas, retailers in Boston said sales of apparel, sporting goods and other gift items were especially strong. Merchants in Chicago also pointed to jewelry and apparel as drivers of holiday sales.


New York stores said sales were “generally strong and ahead of expectations” over the holiday season, but a post-holiday blizzard “curtailed business substantially in the days after Christmas.”


Retailers in Philadelphia said sales increased moderately over the previous year and sales of winter outerwear and jewelry rose. Inclement weather after Christmas also impacted sales here, but not to the extent reported in other districts. “The shoppers came. We still did well,” one retail contact said.


Richmond stores said they experienced a surge in retail sales driven particularly by apparel, toys and groceries. Discounters and big box stores did well between Black Friday and Christmas, and Cyber Monday spurred a lot of sales in the region, the Beige Book said.


Small specialty retailers and more traditional department stores in San Francisco said holiday sales met expectations for modest growth. In other districts, smaller stores did not fare as well. In Atlanta, they reported a less significant increase in business than bigger stores did. One central Virginia retailer said brisk Black Friday sales at big box stores left a group of smaller local shops “looking like a ghost town.” A promotion called “Small Business Saturday” held the following weekend helped the smaller stores recover some sales, the report noted.

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