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Local shoppers at the mall were empty handed

Posted: December 26, 2012 3:27 p.m.
Updated: December 26, 2012 3:27 p.m.
 
Parking was very difficult to find and the Westfield Valencia Town Center was packed with crowds, but it is was unclear if people were doing more window shopping than buying on the day after Christmas.

U.S. shoppers spent cautiously this holiday season, a disappointment for retailers who slashed prices to lure people into stores and now must hope for a post-Christmas burst of spending.

Sales of electronics, clothing, jewelry and home goods in the two months before Christmas increased 0.7 percent compared with last year, according to the MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse report.

That was below the healthy 3 to 4 percent growth that analysts had expected — and it was the worst year-over-year performance since 2008, when spending shrank sharply during the Great Recession. In 2011, retail sales climbed 4 to 5 percent during November and December, according to ShopperTrak.

Retailers still have time to make up lost ground. The final week of December accounts for about 15 percent of the month’s sales, said Michael McNamara, vice president for research and analysis at MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse.

Shoppers at the Westfield Valencia Town Center at mid-day on Wednesday, however, were plentiful but almost none were loaded down with packages and many shoppers were empty-handed altogether.

Sean Fahar of Santa Clarita was returning toys he’d bought his mom for use in her daycare.

“She already has too many toys,” Fahar said.

While the Food Court was packed and a small choo choo train took young children on a ride from the Patios area to inside the mall, Courtney Belsheim stopped by to visit some of the local stores.

A former Canyon High graduate, who moved out of the area when she went to college, Belsheim returned over the holidays and visited the mall to pick up a few items.

“I used a gift certificate, and I needed some new makeup,” she said.

But Brenda Marshall of Palmdale arrived at the mall for many reasons. Marshall came to shop for discounted merchandise, use her gift certificates and return some items, she said.

This year’s shopping season nationally was marred by bad weather and rising uncertainty about the economy in the face of possible tax hikes and spending cuts early next year. Some analysts say the massacre of schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., earlier this month may also have chipped away at shoppers’ enthusiasm.

Still, this season’s weak sales could have repercussions for 2013, McNamara said. Retailers will make fewer orders to restock their shelves, and discounts will hurt their profitability. Wholesalers will buy fewer goods and orders to factories will likely drop in the coming months.

Steep discounts weren’t enough to get people into stores, said Marshal Cohen, chief analyst at the market research firm NPD Inc.

Shopping over the past two months was weakest in areas affected by Superstorm Sandy and a more recent winter storm in the Midwest. Sales declined by 3.9 percent in the mid-Atlantic and 1.4 percent in the Northeast compared with last year. They rose 0.9 percent in the north central part of the country.

The West and South posted gains of between 2 percent and 3 percent, still weaker than the 3 percent to 4 percent increases expected by many retail analysts.

Signal Business Editor Jana Adkins reported locally for this story.

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