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Holiday sales rise, but less than hoped

The 2010 holiday retail season may be the best since 2006, but December sales, out Thursday, were not quite the gift stores were hoping for.

The International Council of Shopping Centers says sales for the holiday season — November and December combined — were up 3.8%, the best showing in four years. December sales increased 3.1%, says ICSC.

Some stores' sales last month were marred by the late-December East Coast blizzard, but especially strong November sales helped carry the season. Department store chain Bon-Ton, for example, blamed the snowstorm for its flat sales.


Many stores' performance looked impressive at first glance. But numbers were compared with a dismal 2009 and were often below analysts' expectations, which was the case for Macy's and Costco.

"It's clear that November's great in-store deals robbed spending from December," said economist Frank Badillo at consulting firm Kantar Retail.

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