At halfway point, sales are sluggish

PHILADELPHIA. At the mid-point of the holiday shopping season, Santa Claus has been more cautious spender than jolly gift-giver, according to Center City retailers like Kenny Balestra.

“Holiday shopping isn’t great, but thankfully people are still getting engaged,” said Balestra, of Nick Balestra Jewelers on Jeweler’s Row. “We’ll see the last 10 days if the last minute [shoppers] come, but if not it will be pretty bad.”

Many retailers, who saw sales drop sharply last year, are optimistic that they will at least match the 2008 figures, but are short of jumping for joy. Most are hoping for a big push in the last two weeks.

“I think the people that walk into the store know what they’re looking to spend,” said Adam Richman, who works at Karl’s, a children’s furniture and clothing store on Chestnut street.

Black Friday shopping was down from 2008 despite an increase in the number of people who visited the stores, according to the National Retail Federation.

Small businesses like Bundy’s, which sells new and refurbished Apple products on Chestnut Street near 18th, are also coping with losing customers who shop almost exclusively online.

“We’re finding that we may, just because Apple itself is doing well, we’re holding our own,” said employee David Foley.

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