Retailers anticipating brisk sales with approach of holidays

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Published: October 8,2007

Some of the nation’s top retailers have expressed concerns that high prices for gas and food combined with concerns about problems in the housing market could cast a damper on the holiday sales season ahead. But Mississippi retailers generally have a positive outlook for holiday sales.

“It is the busiest shopping season of the year, and we anticipate a really good year,” said Andrea Saffle, marketing director, Turtle Creek Mall, Hattiesburg. “We are no longer up against post-Katrina sales, and our stores are starting to show positive trends.”

Hattiesburg continues to add a number of new retail outlets outside the mall area, as well. Saffle said all the new shops just continue to strengthen Hattiesburg’s pull as a regional shopping center.

The Oxford Mall is expecting big things from the holiday shopping season.

“We are looking forward to a really wonderful Christmas season,” said Sue Vaughn, property manager of Oxford Mall. “We have a great location here right across university and get a lot of traffic for that.”

Vaughn said major changes are in the works for the mall, which will go from being enclosed to being a strip mall.

Back-to-school sales often are an indicator for the holiday season ahead. And The Mall at Barnes Crossing, Tupelo, just saw its best back-to-school season ever.

“We should do very well here for the year based on back-to-school sales,” said general manager Jeff Snyder. “For the sales year to date, we are up 7% and traffic is up 11%. We are very optimistic.”

The Mall at Barnes Crossing recently announced a $15-million project for re-merchandising and upgrades for the shopping center.

Allison Lunsford, director of mall marketing, Northpark Mall, Ridgeland, said mall merchants have seen a steady stream of shoppers over the past few weeks and expect this trend to continue as the busy holiday season approaches.

“The holidays are always a joyous time at Northpark Mall,” Lunsford said.

This holiday season, Northpark Mall will offer a new product, the Simon Visa Giftcard. It is a prepaid card that can be used to purchase gifts and services at millions of locations worldwide were Visa consumer debit cards are accepted.

On the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Edgewater Mall is expecting sales to be up for the holiday shopping season that, on average, accounts for 25% to 30% of retailers’ sales for the year.

“Traffic and sales were very brisk for the summer,” said Michelle Rogers, marketing director, Edgewater Mall. “We had a good back-to-school sales period. We have no reason to believe we won’t have a strong holiday selling period.

“We expect a new national retailer to open inside the mall before Christmas.”

Construction work is continuing on anchor store Dillard’s, which is located on the south side of the beachfront mall and received heavy damage in Hurricane Katrina. Negotiations over insurance added to the time before Dillard’s could be rebuilt. Rogers said the store is now on track to re-open in March 2008.

After Hurricane Katrina, Edgewater Mall saw a huge surge in business due to the large number of people who lost everything in the storm and needed to buy replacements. Rogers said for the most part replacement from Katrina has trickled down to a much slower pace, as is to be expected.

“There are new houses coming on line every month,” Rogers said. “People are moving back into homes and needing things. But the biggest rush has subsided with 2006 being a huge sales volume increase for Edgewater Mall as people had to replace a lot of what they owned. Now in 2007 we are experiencing more of what we would consider a normal sales traffic volume. I’m proud to say we are still experiencing an increase over 2005 numbers.”

Beachfront restaurants near the mall haven’t yet been built back. But Rogers said negotiations are underway to bring back restaurants onto the mall property out parcels.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette4@cox.net.

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