CARY — It's no secret. The triangle's economy has hummed along over the past few years. Unemployment is low, salaries are high, and now the latest estimates indicate that our area has outpaced the rest of the country in 1997 holiday spending.
The North Carolina Retail Merchants Association surveys its members every year, and they put out a report, showing how holiday sales went. The association's Fran Preston says that North Carolina did much better than the rest of the nation over the holidays. Tarheel retailers saw five percent to eight percent growth over sales in 1996.
The holiday season got off to a slow start for retailers, but things picked up, according to Mike Thompson, who manages the Hudson-Belk store in Cary.
Local clothing shops did well, although the apparel industry has endured a rough holiday season. Clothing store manager Luella Harris says that she didn't see the huge Christmas she was expecting, but the holidays were profitable.
Store managers say that the economically-robust holiday season does not mean that there will be fewer clearance sales. Hudson-Belk manager Thompson says that his store actually buys a little extra to bring in customers during slow post-holiday months.
Was the Christmas present for retailers the result of customers' overspending? Credit counselors say that it looks like plenty of people put themselves in the red last month.