Originally created 12/02/99

Holiday sales increase in state



ATLANTA - Strong after-Thanksgiving sales in Georgia were buoyed by healthy consumer confidence, but some factories are slowing slightly, according to reports released Wednesday.

Georgia's holiday weekend sales were up 4.9 percent more than last Thanksgiving at stores that have been open at least a year, according to a report from TeleCheck, which processes checks for 210,000 stores nationwide. But in-state stores didn't measure up to the 5.2 percent national sales increase, the strongest showing in six years.

"Cool, crisp weather, ideal for holiday shopping, kept consumers in the Christmas spirit," said William Ford, former president of the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank and senior economic adviser to TeleCheck, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based First Data Corp.

Contributing to strong sales was a fourth-quarter boost of three points in consumer confidence in Georgia to 113, the highest it's been in seven quarters, according to figures from the Econometric Center at Kennesaw State University. A reading above 100 indicates most consumers expect the economy to grow.

"The rebound in consumer expectations, coupled with strong income gains, should provide support for a moderately strong holiday season," said Roger Tutterow, co-director of the center and author of the confidence survey.

"However, survey respondents were fairly conservative with their holiday spending plans," he said.

Just 23 percent said they planned to spend more on presents this year while 28 percent predicted they'd buy less. The survey of 400 Georgians has a margin of error of 4.9 percent.

Georgia factories producing non-durable goods, those expected to last less than three years, and those turning out export items are running strong, according to another report from the Kennesaw center. At the same time, a slowdown in housing has resulted in slower production of durable goods like appliances and furnishings.

The Georgia Purchasing Managers Index slid 10 points between October and November to 52.5, the lowest reading since January, but still a healthy level. When the index tops 45 it indicates growth in the manufacturing sector, and a reading above 50 projects overall economic expansion.

Reach Walter Jones at (404) 589-8424.