Sales for holiday season 2002 were flat compared to last year, according to ICSC’s survey of non-anchor stores at 58 U.S. malls released this week.

Shoppers were out in full force on Black Friday, but after that, traffic slowed down until the week before Christmas, when sales were up 3.4 percent over 2001. Unfortunately, last minute purchases were not enough to compensate for the season’s slow start. ICSC director of research Michael Baker blamed a weak economy and geopolitical concerns as factors that put a damper on spending, rather than the lack of fashion newness many Wall Street analysts have blamed.

Some other findings from the survey, which did not include department stores or discounters:

o The best performing merchandise category was home furnishings, which posted a 7 percent gain over 2001. Music, video and home entertainment sales declined the most, down 8 percent from 2001. According to Salomon Smith Barney analyst Jonathan Litt, the decline was due to the "anniversarying" of new gaming systems such as Xbox that were top sellers in 2001, and a lack of new hot products to replace them.

o Bigger ticket items did not sell well, while lower-priced accessory items performed better in all merchandise categories.

o On a regional basis, the South saw the biggest sales growth, up 1.4 percent over 2001. The Midwest posted the most disappointing sales, with a decline of 3.6 percent from 2001.