CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A winter storm that blanketed most of the East Coast over Christmas weekend apparently won't affect retailers' strongest holiday sales gains since the recession began.
Figures released Monday by MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, which tracks retail purchases including cash, debit and credit cards, showed sales from Nov. 5 through Dec. 24 rose 5.5percent compared to last year. That's higher than most analysts had initially forecast. When after-Christmas sales are added in, the totals should show the most holiday spending growth since 2005.
Still, shoppers could still see sweet discounts from major retailers for the next week or more, as national stores try to compensate for lost shopping days in the northeast.
"Every kid wishes for a white Christmas," said Marshal Cohen, retail analyst for the New York-based consulting NPD Group. "What retailers don't wish for is a white day-after-Christmas. A lot of the momentum they gained, they gave back."
Stores in Charlotte said they saw lighter-than-expected traffic Sunday morning due to the snow. Many retailers had advertised early deals and sales of up to 75 percent off to try to lure shoppers.
Despite the Sunday setback, many independent local retailers have said that they've seen a successful holiday season compared to the last two years.
"We've had a lot of traffic, so that's been very encouraging," said Tony Hill, manager of gift store Paper Skyscraper on East Boulevard. "It looks at least on par or a bit better than 2009."
He said that although traffic was down Sunday because of the snow, the store is geared up for the remainder of this week after Christmas, and was seeing more shoppers Monday.
Callie Lamb, owner of Her Therapy boutique in Ballantyne Village, said she's seen another encouraging sign in addition to higher sales this year: People shopping for themselves as well as buying gifts for others.
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