Christmas 1994: The Race Is On

All signs point to a healthy holiday season.

A highly-confident Miller said Saks is running much higher than a year ago, reporting comparable-store sales 16.5 percent ahead for November and 18 percent ahead Friday and Saturday.

Among the stronger areas, he cited intimate apparel, St. John Knits merchandise, handbags, large sizes and fragrances, including Jean Paul Gaultier, Eau D'Issey, Yves Saint Laurent's Champagne and Annick Goutal. Designer and private label sportswear and fine jewelry were also strong, but fashion jewelry fell short.

In addition, Saks staged a chainwide event for its customers who charge at least $3,000 a year in the third week of the month, offering merchandise rebates based on dollars purchased.

Miller noted that November 1993 was not a strong period, though sales did rise "a couple of points."

At Bergdorf Goodman, "We had an unbelievably great reaction to higher priced merchandise," said Stephen Elkin, chairman and ceo. "The enthusiasm and the traffic is there."

He said customers were seeking unusual items, including rare scarves of cashmere made from the Ibex goat of Tibet that sell for $1,500 to $3,000 at the store.

According to a survey of 26 regional malls around the country by the International Council of Shopping Centers, retail sales at specialty stores rose 9 percent on Friday from a year ago, and were led by jewelry and home furnishings.

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