Business & Real Estate

Estimates signal merry Christmas for Sacramento retail sales

The receipts haven’t yet been tallied, but local shopping malls say the season has been one of the best in recent memory.

“We are very happy with the season,” Stephanie Ringey, marketing director at the Westfield Galleria in Roseville, said Friday.

The Galleria saw growth in sales and foot traffic this year, as did Arden Fair mall in Sacramento. The days and weeks leading up to Christmas saw packed stores and crowded parking lots.

“Retailers reported sales gains week to week throughout the holiday season,” Jamie McDaniels, senior marketing manager at Arden Fair, said in an email, adding that foot traffic remained steady throughout the season that began Thanksgiving Day.

McDaniels noted that retailers are still tallying their sales and that more detailed numbers will be available next week. Retailers typically make additional sales through January, when consumers cash in on gift cards and exchange unwanted presents.

But economist Sung Won Sohn at California State University, Channel Islands, described the season as good, not spectacular.

“The sales haven’t met up to the expectations that we had earlier,” he said Friday in a telephone interview, noting that the lack of a hit product hurt retailers.

Sohn, who is also vice chairman of the Forever 21 apparel chain, added that it was too early to tell how the sector performed because the holiday season has become “elongated,” with stores launching sales early in November and late into January.

“We need to wait until the first week of January to come to a definitive conclusion,” he said.

The National Retail Federation predicted that November and December retail sales will rise 4.1 percent over last year. The average person was expected to spend $804.42 this holiday, up from $767.27 in 2013. Final numbers from the trade group will be released in the coming weeks.

Last year, Arden Fair generated around $440 million in retail sales, according to sales tax figures released by the city of Sacramento. That was a considerable improvement over the $410 million generated in 2009, during the worst of the recession. But it was still well below the $490 million reached in 2007, just before the economy cratered.

The Galleria hit a sales record in the fiscal year that ended last June, according to city of Roseville sales tax data. The Roseville mall’s revenue hit about $430 million and has risen 40 percent since the trough in 2008-09.

“Certainly the economic conditions support a stronger holiday season. We’ve certainly had strong employment growth and a higher level of consumer confidence,” said Jeffrey Michael, head of the Business Forecasting Center at the University of Pacific in Stockton. “Will be interesting to see what the retailers have to say about that.”

Call The Bee’s Richard Chang at (916) 321-1018. Follow him on Twitter @RichardYChang.