December 17, 1996 in Nation/World

Holiday Shopping Pace Picks Up

Compiled From Wire Services

The pace of holiday-related shopping picked up over the weekend as consumers who traditionally start late finally began to buy, retail analysts said.

An increase in sales as Christmas nears would be in keeping with a growing round trend of shoppers buying closer to when they actually need the merchandise.

“There’s been a real polarization in terms of when people shop,” said Carl Steidtmann, an economist for Price Waterhouse. “They either get it over with early at Thanksgiving or they wait until the last few days.”

As of late Sunday afternoon, 43 percent of Americans had completed their shopping, said Britt Beemer, chairman of America’s Research Group. Typically, 48 percent to 58 percent of those polled have completed their shopping by this weekend.

“I have seen a pickup in business,” said Walter Loeb, president of Loeb Associates, a retail consultant.

Many retailers and experts expect sales at stores open at least a year to rise 4 percent to percent this holiday season. Last year, same-store sales rose about 2 percent, one of the smallest nonrecessionary increases in decades.

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