Christmas Sales Looking Healthy

Despite warnings of crumbling consumer confidence in the face of a slowing economy, there are signs it may turn out to be a pretty decent holiday shopping season after all. So far, sales look to be better than those of last year.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Oh, bless you. You're home is worthless. You're credit card is overdrawn. And yet holidays sales took off in the final week before Christmas according to a firm that tracks shoppers spending, which is considered good news amidst worries that the economy could slip into recession.

NPR's Frank Langfitt reports.

FRANK LANGFITT: Sales for the week ending December 22nd were up a third from the previous week. That's according to Shopper Track, which follows retail sales.

Bill Martin is the firm's executive vice president. He said this holiday shopping season is on track to beat last year's by about three and a half percent.

Mr. BILL MARTIN (Co-Founder, Shopper Tracker): I would characterize it as a good Christmas, not a great Christmas.

LANGFITT: Holiday shopping is a critical part of consumer spending, which rise most on our gross domestic product. Retailers were worried that the weakening economy would be a drag on gift buying.

Martin attributes the strong spending to a longer shopping season this year, deep discounts, and people's desire to just celebrate.

Mr. MARTIN: I think after a season or a year, actually, where we've had a very difficult economic news hit. We've talked about the gas prices. We've talked about the credit crunch. I think consumers were really looking for a break, looking for an opportunity to express themselves to their loved ones and really participate in what's become a tradition is having a good, strong holiday.

LANGFITT: Shopping online is up as well. Growth in November and the first three weeks of December was the slowest on record. But according to comScore, which measures activity on the Internet, sales we're still up 19 percent from last year.

FRANK LANGFITT, NPR News.

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