Retailers Wait for Final Holiday Sales Figures

December 26th is traditionally a day of deep discounts at the malls, but this year there were big sales even before Christmas. Retailers were worried about how the sluggish economy would affect their holiday sales. And it may be a while before we know for sure.

There are certainly plenty of people in the malls the day after Christmas. Some of them were taking advantage of those after Christmas sales, but others chose not to spend money, returning or exchanging their presents instead.

"There are a lot of people that got the wrong sizes and the wrong colors," explained Montgomery Mall's Kristy Jansen. Jansen admits the after Christmas crowds didn't seem to measure up to what retailers saw in the few days before. "Two days ago was crazy, but today we've had a pretty good day also," she said.

Those 'crazy' days before Christmas are what retailers are hoping will keep them in the black this year. A sluggish economy kept sales slow at first, but the last week before Christmas seemed busier than expected.

Still, members of the Alabama Retail Association say it's too early to tell. "The sales tax collection numbers will be in February and that's when we'll be able to look back at December and compare it to years of December holiday sales," said Alison Wingate. "Right now, we can just 'guestimate.'"

But so far, those 'guestimates' aren't as grim as they were. So it may not have been the blue Christmas many retailers were bracing for. It's still unlikely the February statistics will show any increase over last year's numbers since stores slashed their prices so early this season. The good news is that a University of Alabama economist predicts gradual improvements in the economy in 2002.