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Gift Cards Deliver Merry Christmas for Retailers

After a dismal holiday shopping season in 2008, U.S. retailers posted gains in December, with a wave of consumers going to the mall to redeem holiday gift cards responsible for lifting last month’s retail sales 2.8 percent over December 2008, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.

“Holiday sales were late in coming, but showed healthy gains as the season wrapped up,” Michael Niemira, the ICSC’s chief economist, said in a statement.

Discount stores reported relatively [impressive improvement](http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/08/business/economy/08shop.html?hp), with Costco’s December sales up 9 percent over December ’08. Even luxury goods stores like Saks and Nordstrom’s also showed gains. And it appears as though gift cards redeemed during post-holiday sales gave the month a [much-need boost](http://www.dailyfinance.com/story/post-christmas-shopping-put-some-cheer-in-retailers-holiday/19303400/). The ISCS reported that sales for the week ending January 2 were 1.5 percent higher than the week just prior to the holidays, when many people rush to finish their shopping. “Sales were boosted by consumers redeeming their gift cards,” the ICSC’s Niemira said in the statement. “A chill was certainly in the air during the past week, but consumers seemingly used that as an opportunity to head for the warmth of a shopping center.”

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