American economists had predicted that this Christmas season’s shopping season would be an integral barometer of how well the nation's recovery from the Great Recession was going.


American economists had predicted that this Christmas season’s shopping season would be an integral barometer of how well the recovery from the Great Recession is coming.

Nationwide, national retail sales were expected to rise 3.7 percent during November and December when compared to the same period last year, according to ShopperTrak, which provides retail and mall foot-traffic counting services. ShopperTrak’s had forecast a 3 percent sales increase. ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin’s prediction came despite projections that foot traffic would decrease 2.2 percent because shoppers buying more on their trips.

The predicted rise in sales appears to be holding true locally as merchants in downtown Dover have enjoyed brisk foot traffic, and the suburban parking lots of the Dover Mall, Kmart and the Walmarts in Camden and Cheswold have been full.

West Loockerman Street in Dover, for instance, was bustling.

“Today I can definitely say I have been particularly busy – much more busy than any other day so far,” said Kimberly Aigle, owner of Suds Bar and Restaurant. “Besides the holiday, we have Group On and a couple other deals going. Everybody is redeeming everything today.”

Across the street, Delaware Made owner Thomas G. Smith was so swamped Friday afternoon, he couldn’t even take time to chat about retail figures.

“I am very busy,” he said, chuckling. “I have a line of people here waiting.”

The merchants out in suburban Dover were also enjoying all of people who, at this point in the game, are last-minute Christmas shoppers.

Dover Mall Director of Marketing and Business Development Tricia Southard could not comment on actual foot traffic or sales figures, per Simon Malls policy. Anecdotally, however, she acknowledged that Dover Mall was packed Friday.

“The mall is full of people who are shopping with bags in hand and they seem to be doing so joyfully,” Southard said. “We think everything is going to be on par for this Christmas holiday season.”

Southard tells anyone who will listen that the Saturday before Christmas, known as “Super Saturday,” is usually the biggest shopping day – even bigger than Black Friday. But with Christmas falling on a Sunday this year, Super Saturday was last weekend. In her opinion, this weekend was going to be strong as well.

“A lot of people had off today because of the holiday, so today is a mini Saturday, if you will,” Southard said. “Tomorrow should be strong as well. We’re opening early at 7 a.m. and people may hit the mall earlier to get those last few items that they need.”

Dover mall, home to Boscov’s, Macy’s, Sears and J.C. Penney and a slew of mom and pop stores, closes at 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

As for the Super Walmart in Cheswold and the Walmart in Camden, those big box stores appeared to be busy. But Walmart does not release sales information on a monthly basis, spokeswoman Ashley Hardie said. Sales and earnings are released on a quarterly basis, with this quarter ending Jan. 31, 2012, she said.

Kmart and Kmart-owned Sears also do not comment on sales figures. But Sears, for one, has attempted to accommodate shoppers scrambling to complete their holiday lists with a range of sales and expanded stores hours, said Sears spokeswoman Cathleen Genova, an account executive with the public relations firm Schneider Associates. Sears has been closing at midnight.