Retail sales recover as buyer fears ease

Retail sales recover as buyer fears ease

Recovery was the rallying cry for the retail industry in 2010.

After two years of very weak sales as consumers reined in spending during the Great Recession, retail purchases rose for the fifth straight month in November.

“It was the return of the retail industry,” said Michael Niemira, chief economist for the International Council of Shopping Centers. “Profits have been strong in 2010, and that’s the real comeback after a very serve downturn.”

It was also the year of luxury retailers, who started rebounding as consumer confidence increased and shoppers felt more comfortable buying beyond necessities.

And pop-up stores – temporary stores that remain open for a few days or weeks – became much more than just a way to generate buzz for a brand. In 2010, they became filler for empty storefronts, generating revenue for property owners while saving retailers money.

“It’s a story that will become a trend for the future,” Niemira said. “Pop-up stores work for some types of retailers who want to be here for a little bit of time and don’t necessarily want to pay rent for the entire year. Now, the industry has to figure out how to manage that.”

Mall owner General Growth Properties, which owns the Natick Collection and operates Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston, emerged from 19 months of bankruptcy in November. It did so standing on its own, spurning rival Simon Property Group’s offers to buy it.

“For the (real estate investment trust) and shopping center industry, that certainly was an important story because of how it got done in the competitive environment – the fact that they were able to come back, remake the company without necessarily having to accept a Simon deal that would change the landscape through more consolidation,” Niemira said.

In Massachusetts, Framingham-based TJX Cos. offered less than cheerful tidings to 1,400 local workers last month.

Two weeks before Christmas, the company announced it was closing its A.J. Wright discount chain. In all, 4,400 A.J. Wright employees nationally will lose their jobs as the off-price retailer converts 91 of the stores to T.J. Maxx, Marshalls or HomeGoods and closes 71 others for good.

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