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LOCAL, NATIONAL RETAILERS REPORT MIXED HOLIDAY SHOPPING RESULTS

Local retailers mirror national chains in reporting mixed results for the second week of holiday shopping.

Nationally, retailers such as Sears, Roebuck & Co.; J.C. Penney Co. Inc.; and May Department Stores Co., which owns the Kaufmann's chain, reported sales decreases of from 2.4 percent of 4.6 percent, while the Limited Inc. and Woolworth Corp. were among those reporting modest sales increases.

Sales have been mixed at downtown stores including those in the Main Place Mall, said Dottie Gallagher, spokeswoman for Buffalo Place Inc. which oversees downtown shopping and theater districts. One store was selling 34 percent above last year's totals while another was not meeting projections, Ms. Gallagher said, withholding store names.

"Downtown stores are performing as well as their suburban counterparts," she said. "Overall sales are about the same as the were last year."

Adam, Meldrum & Anderson Co.'s downtown anchor is reporting modest gains. AM&A's has used a aggressive promotions to coax a 5 percent sales increase, said Don M. Alexander, vice president of sales, promotions and marketing.

Sales at a women's specialty store in the Main Place Mall, are "terrible, down quite a bit from what we'd normally be doing," said a store manager who declined to give a name. In one week, sales were 31 percent below what they were this time last year. Overall, holiday sales are 25 percent below last year's sales, the manager said.

Pitt Petri Inc., which operates upscale gift shops at 378 Delaware Avenue and in Snyder, is combating the cool sales with a new merchandising strategy.

"We have bought merchandise at lower than normal prices and marketing it accordingly," said owner Pitt (Pete) Petri.

Petri's has been selling Sterling Silver utensils with stainless steel implements, he said. Knives, for example, have sterling handles but stainless steel blades, which cuts the piece from about $200 to about $49.95.

"Our two stores are doing well in spite of the economic crunch," Petri said.

New merchandise offerings appear to be improving the sales picture at Kleinhans Co. clothier, said Gary W. Cejka, president and chief executive officer.

Men's double-breasted suits with peaked lapels; bright ties with bold, abstract prints, and color palets that include mushrooms, taupe and earth tones are bringing in shoppers.

"People are feeling an sense of urgency to buy," Cejka said. Because of the exciting new merchandise and a few promotions, "sales are getting better every day," he said.

Sears is countering slow sales with aggressive pricing.

Sears said that on certain days from now until Christmas it will cut prices on Brand Central merchandise such as washers, vacuum cleaners and microwave ovens by up to $500. Next Tuesday and Wednesday it will offer zero percent financing on goods such as home electronics, furniture and jewelry.

Analysts had projected that slow sales due to higher gasoline prices would force heavy discounting and promotions nationally.

Additionally, warmer weather in some parts of the country could be preventing shoppers from buying as much as usual, said Joseph B. Siegel, vice president of merchandising with the National Retail Federation Inc. in New York.

"Retailers seem to be comfortable with their inventory positions and they are not concerned about excess stock. Where they have classifications that aren't moving, they will go after it," Siegel said. "The fact that (the Northeast) is having a mild winter means coats aren't selling, and I see major coat promotions."

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