Holidays were hot for downtown retailers

The 2010 holiday-shopping season was a strong bounce-back period for retailers as consumers boosted spending on apparel, jewelry and other items.

National retail sales, excluding autos, rose 5.5 percent for the 50-day holiday season, measured from Nov. 5 through Dec. 24, compared to the year-ago period. That's according to the SpendingPulse report issued Dec. 27 by MasterCard Advisors, the professional-services unit of MasterCard Worldwide.

The increase in holiday retail sales exceeded the 3.3 percent growth that the National Retail Federation, an industry trade group, had forecast on Dec. 14. And it was the biggest gain in holiday sales in five years.

Local retailers also said they saw significant improvement in the just-completed holiday period.

"It was better than last year, but last year was pretty brutal," Kenn Kushner, owner of Kenn Kushner Designs, which sells high-end handmade jewelry from its storefront in Syracuse's Armory Square, said of the holiday season. "Jewelry buying is pretty cyclical. If they don't buy one year, they do the next."

Kushner said his store's holiday sales were up about 20 to 25 percent compared to the 2009 holiday-shopping period. He was actually expecting even stronger sales. "It was OK, but wasn't a smash," he added.

Nationally, jewelers did well this holiday season, with sales rising 8.4 percent compared to the year-ago period, according to the SpendingPulse report.

Consumers also flocked to apparel, with sales growing 11.2 percent over the 2009 holiday-shopping period, when apparel sales fell 0.4 percent.

Kellie Misita, owner of Showoffs Boutique, a women's clothing and accessories retailer in Armory Square, said she has not totaled her sales figures for the holiday season, but said her store received steady, strong customer traffic. That was especially the case in the final week before Christmas, with an influx of male shoppers buying gifts for the women in their lives.

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