BRADENTON -- Bealls says it is cautiously optimistic about its holiday retail sales after analyzing its Black Friday and Cyber Monday results.
Unlike major retailers such as Kohl's, Target and Macy's who reported weak November sales despite a strong Thanksgiving weekend, Bealls says its online sales and early shopping have been strong.
"The month started slowly for the outlets and department stores but it picked up toward the middle of the month," said Bill Webster, director of public and government affairs.
Sales in stores and outlets are slightly ahead of last year's and Cyber Monday sales were 41 percent higher than 2011, he said.
This year the Bradenton-based retailer had special online promotions only that did well, Webster said. Some special Black Friday items that went on sale at midnight the day after Thanksgiving also did well, some selling out.
They included a Polaroid tablet for $99 and a KitchenAid mixer for $199.
One change for online ordering for Bealls that translated into quicker shipments and more time for store employees was a central shipping area in Lakeland that was used for home items and toys rather than individual stores shipping the products.
"Store employees were not pulled off floor to fill Internet orders and stock on key items didn't get stripped from the stores," Webster said.
Many stores' revenues in the northeast were affected by Superstorm Sandy.
The storm stunted enthusiasm among shoppers during the first couple of weeks of November just as stores were preparing for the busiest shopping period of the year.
"It really took away the punchbowl for retailers and put them behind the eight ball heading into the crucial weekend," said Ken Perkins, president of RetailMetrics, a
Eighteen retailers reported Thursday that November sales at stores open at least a year -- an indicator of a retailer's health -- through last Saturday were up 1.7 percent compared with the the same period a year ago, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. That's well below the group's anticipated forecast for a 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent gain.
Although Bealls operates stores as far north as Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky, the superstorm had little impact on the company, Webster said.
"We are seeing more consistently good business this year," he said. "Last year there was unusually warm weather. This year it's been much better for apparel sales."
U.S. shoppers face economic uncertainty. Many Americans are still concerned about the weak job market. And they worry whether Congress will be able to head off tax increases and spending cuts before the U.S. reaches the "fiscal cliff" in January. If Congress doesn't reach a deal, it would mean less money in Americans' paychecks.
Webster said it is too hard to predict how much the fiscal cliff impact will have on shoppers.
"How deeply that goes is hard to say now," he said.
Information from TheAssociated Press wasused in this report.