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Retailers look to last-minute holiday shoppers to boost sales



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SALT LAKE CITY — Retailers are hoping last minute holiday shoppers will be in a spending mood and help boost sales on the day before Christmas.

Nationally this year, holiday sales are up 2.5 percent from a year ago. But that's not as high as the 3.3 percent rise in sales that experts had expected.

Renewed economic worries, including concern that the nation may fall off the fiscal cliff a week from Tuesday, are one of the things that dampened the spending spirit. Nationally, the aftermath of the Connecticut shootings and recent storms also played a part.

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The Black Friday rush had retailers excited, but then sales dropped off in the days following. Last Saturday was expected to be the second busiest shopping day of the year, and many store parking lots in Utah were very crowded.

Marshal Cohen, chief research analyst at NPD Inc., a market research firm with a network of analysts at shopping centers nationwide, estimates customer traffic over the weekend was in line with the same time a year ago, but that shoppers seem to be spending less.

Online, sales rose just 8.4 percent to $48 billion from Oct. 28 through Saturday, according to a measure by MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse.

That is below the online sales growth of between 15 to 17 percent seen in the prior 18-month period, according to the data service, which tracks all spending across all forms of payment, including cash.

The good news for consumers -- retailers may have some good bargains Monday as they try to capitalize on last minute shoppers.

Some stores stayed open all night from Friday to Saturday, and most stores, including the malls, will be open by 9 a.m. Monday. But be aware, stores will close by early evening.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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Sam Penrod

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