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Improved Christmas Season Expected for Orange County Retailers

An improving job market and cheap gas are fueling the spending frenzy.

Holiday shoppers (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)
Holiday shoppers (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

The Christmas shopping season, which traditionally has started the day after Thanksgiving but is creeping up earlier every year, is expected to be 5 percent better for retailers this year, a Chapman University economist predicts.

An improving job market, rising home prices, a record-setting stock market and the "wealth factor," is fueling consumer confidence, said Esmael Adibi, director of the A. Gary Anderson Center for Economic Research at Chapman.

Cheaper gas helps, too, he added.

"Gas prices were hovering around four bucks, now is under $3.50, and we think gas prices are headed even lower," Adibi said.

The only damper was increased Social Security taxes, that affects lower- income residents, Adibi said.

Shopping centers owned by Irvine Company, which include Fashion Island and The Market Place, are already doing better this year than all of November 2012, said Stacie Ellis, the company's director of marketing.

"All of our centers are running increases in traffic," Ellis said. "I'd say we're optimistic. It's retail so you never know what's going to happen, but we're definitely optimistic."

Retail traffic at Irvine Company stores started trending up around Halloween, Ellis said.

"You're seeing people shopping earlier," Ellis said.

South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa this year is besting last year's sales, said the shopping center's marketing director, Debra Gunn Downing.

"We've seen a double digit increase over last year and last year was our best year ever," Downing said. "We began to see holiday shopping early in November, so we expect a very strong season."

South Coast Plaza has about 20 new stores that opened this year so there's "a lot of newness in terms of the retail environment," Downing said.

City News Service



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