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Post-holiday shopping center survey reveals optimism

North Plainfield, N.J. -- A survey released Monday by Levin Management Corp., which polled retailers within its 12.5 million-sq.-ft. shopping center portfolio in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York, found a general feeling of post-holiday optimism.

Levin conducts both a pre-holiday survey to track retailer expectations, and a post-holiday survey to track actual performance. In the post-holiday 2011 survey, nearly three-quarters of respondents – 73.1% – reported year-over-year seasonal sales at the same or better levels than in 2010. Approximately 80% of respondents in the pre-holiday survey expected the same or better sales than in 2010.

The 2011 post-holiday survey results suggest that improved sales may tie directly to an increase in consumer traffic at retail stores, according to Leven. A full 71.2% of survey respondents reported that their traffic was the same or better compared to 2010.

“We can conclude from our tenants’ 2011 holiday season sales and traffic that consumers are feeling more enthusiastic about the economy and are again beginning to spend money,” noted Matthew Harding, Levin’s president and COO. “While things clearly remain unsettled, this is very good news.”

Additionally, this stronger overall holiday season appears to have made a significant impact on annual sales volume, according to Harding. Before the holidays, only 28.4% of survey respondents indicated that they were having a better year than 2010. That number jumped to 32.7% in the post-holiday survey. Additionally, the percentage of pre-holiday respondents that reported they were having a worse year in 2011 vs. 2010 shrunk considerably in the post-holiday survey, dropping from 44.1% to 39.8%.

Approximately 30% of Levin’s 2011 post-holiday respondents reported adding seasonal staff, and 54.7% of those respondents indicated plans to retain their temporary hires. “This shows that a positive holiday season has fostered confidence that the economic climate is improving,” Harding said. “Jobs growth is a critical indicator.”

Likewise, a general feeling of optimism is paving the way for further progress. Some 65.1% of 2011 post-holiday respondents noted that they are feeling optimistic about the coming year. Only 5.8% were pessimistic. The balance is unsure or believes that 2012 will be similar to 2011.

Harding noted that the progress reflected in Levin’s 2011 holiday survey takes on even more significance when compared to its past surveys. “Since 2009 we have traced a positive year-over-year holiday sales trend,” he said. There has been steady improvement over the last three years with a significant improvement during the 2011 holiday season, he said.

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