January--when the nation's retailers used to rake out the aisles, restack all of the unsold sweaters and throw the sheets on a big table for the biannual White Sale--is growing in importance.
Retail sales rose 10.5% in January 2006 vs. 2005, when they rose 7.5%.
"January is all about newness," says Deniz Anders, a spokeswoman for Nordstrom. She said the retailer is
offering brightly colored handbags and stretchy headbands in spring colors in its stores this week.
Consumers bought $24.8 billion in gift cards this year, 34% more than in 2005. Gift card sales rose only 7% from 2004 to 2005, and 0.5% the year before. Most people spend their gift cards in January and February. But because retailers can't count gift card sales until the cards are redeemed, those sales dollars are pushed out of December into the next year.