From the notebook of business editor Tim Rausch

Retailers are hoping sales get big boost from Santa

Did the doors burst open?

 

Did starting the holiday shopping season early with near-weekly door-busters all through November make a dent? The International Council of Shopping Centers reported U.S. chain-store sales posted a gain of 2.1 percent in November compared to last November.

 

“Sales were constrained by weak apparel sales this month,” said Michael Niemira, the vice president of research and the chief economist for the council. “November was a very competitive environment for retailers, and the softness in the November tally suggests some cautiousness by consumers.”

 

Reading between the lines, it seems 2.1 percent sales growth is weak.

 

They expect “sales momentum” to return in December based on survey results that said shoppers had only done a third of their holiday shopping by the end of November.

 

BANK MERGER: Look to the end of January to see the completion of the merger between Augusta-based Savannah River Banking Co. and Columbia-based First Community Bank.

 

Regulators have been going over the combination and shareholders will get their final say at the end of next month.

 

The merger was announced in August. First Community is acquiring Savannah River for about $33 million.

 

The Aiken and Augusta Savannah River branches will get the First Community name.

 

OPPORTUNITY OWNER: A Toronto commercial real estate investor announced that it has an agreement to buy the Publix-anchored North Augusta Plaza for $19 million. The deal is expected to close by the end of the year.

 

The new owner will be Slate U.S. Opportunity (No. 3) Realty Trust – yes, they have two other realty trusts – which is run by Slate Properties Inc.

 

The 254,718-square foot-shopping center on East Martintown Road also has Kmart and Hamrick’s.

 

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