Holiday Shoppers Seek Sales in Square

Brian M. Haas

Cambridge residents got a jump on their holiday shopping in the Square this weekend. This family browses in the Curious George store on the corner of Brattle and JFK Streets yesterday.

Despite fears of tough economic times, shoppers flocked to Harvard Square Friday to start off their holiday shopping with books, shoes and discount sweaters.

Most stores in the Square reported either meeting or exceeding profit expectations for the Nov. 28 sales this year—a dramatic increase over last year’s post-Thanksgiving sales.

Thanksgiving fell six days later this year, leaving consumers with fewer holiday shopping days, a change store-owners had worried would result in decreased sales.

The high sales also come as a relief since economic experts had predicted stores could face a decline in what is typically a shopping bonanza the Friday following Thanksgiving.

But Walmart Stores Inc. achieved its biggest single-day sales figure ever, earning $1.43 billion in sales, compared to last year’s 1.25 billion. Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, along with Dillard’s and Nordstrom, Inc. also reported exceeding their sales expectations.

Jessica D. Marlin ’06 went shopping at the Prudential Center on the day after Thanksgiving. She said she noticed more people making purchases rather than just browsing through the aisles.

Marlin said she thought predictions that worries about war with Iraq would deter consumers were wrong.

“I don’t think people are that concerned about the war on Iraq,” she said. “It’s either going to happen or it’s not.”

The Gap in Harvard Square saw an increase from last year in both after-Thanksgiving shoppers and sales, with a greater proportion of shoppers actually making purchases in the store, according to a sales clerk.

The clerk said increased sales may have been prompted by store-wide bargains, including $29 sweaters and $178 coat promotions.

Consumers emptied their pocketbooks on Friday for a diverse array of products, including books.

According to Gardner Key, manager of The Harvard Bookstore, the store had a twofold increase in shoppers compared with any normal day. The store also saw more profits than the same day last year, he said.

City Sports also had a rush of shoppers.

“People are just more willing to spend this year,” said Sara Mallett, clothing manager of City Sports.

She approximated that sales increased 15 to 20 percent from 2001 levels.

“For a Friday, the foot traffic was double what we usually get.”

The shoe store Berk’s had 30 percent more sales, Co-Manager Marc Pinansky said.

He said more people were buying instead of looking,

“Pretty much everyone who came in bought something,” Pinansky said.

‘They were people on a mission,” he added.

He speculated sales might have increased for businesses this year because last year’s traditional shopping days were overshadowed by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“I would like to think that people here are feeling more comfortable,” he said.