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Plummeting savings and a harrowing crescendo of unemployment have been etching disastrous numbers for many retailers over the past year and the holiday shopping season may not be the fourth quarter savior on retailer’s wish lists. Our readers agree with the pessimists edging out the optimists as 52% feel that Black Friday sales started a dismal holiday sales season, while 48% see hope for retail from the most anticipated shopping day of the year. Mark Roberts, senior VP of leasing for Chestnut Hill, MA-based WS Development, donated his two cents, not seeing all retail as the same.

“Year-over-year, traffic was certainly up, people were value-shopping to a certain degree, but it was really the [class] A centers that performed, and the spread between the A and the B & C centers is getting more pronounced.

“We [at WS Development] are big fans of critical mass: anchors, restaurants, specialty, and then entertainment components, like theaters. Whether open air or [class] A malls, they get the lion’s share of the traffic. In our higher-end centers, such as Legacy Place in Dedham,[MA] and Derby Street Shoppes in Hingham, MA places like Anthropologie, and J. Crew and Lucky and Banana Republic did outstanding. The shoppers are out, clearly they’re going to lean towards bargains, but it is our expectation that they will exceed last year’s numbers.”

Roberts lays emphasis on the type of surrounding retail as a strong factor for success to up foot traffic, such as in their “hybrid centers,” but sees trouble for some of the higher-end brands.

“You’ve got a Target and a Kohl’s and a Best Buy and a Barnes & Noble, but you’ve also got, some Gaps and Ann Taylor Lofts and the like. You’ve got a good healthy mix of anchors and specialty players [in hybrid centers]. You’re well-leased and you’ve got the tenants…traffic is up and the tenants in the centers are doing some business.

“If you’re in that mid-tier, Banana, Lucky, J. Crew…they’re still going to do pretty good. When you start getting up into Louis Vuitton and the luxury level, then I think it’s going to continue to be soft because people aren’t stretching [their wallets] that far.

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