A jolly Christmas for Tiffany?

Retailers are increasingly concerned about the 2009 holiday season, which starts in less than two months. Last year's holidays nearly crushed many of them and helped put others, like Circuit City, out of business. Some retail chains with big debt loads and quarterly losses face a make-or-break Christmas this year.

Surprisingly, amidst all the gloom, Tiffany (TIF) CEO made some upbeat comments about Christmas which are likely to surprise and please many people in the upper stratosphere of the retail business.

In an interview with Reuters, James Quinn, president of the high-end jeweler said, "We are reasonably optimistic about the holiday season." Tiffany sells items which can cost up to $100,000 or more. Quinn also said business in Europe had been close to brisk.

Tiffany's good fortune is certainly unanticipated and gives other retailers who cater to the rich a little hope for the holidays.

Back-to-school sales were not encouraging enough to make analysts feel that the rest of the years would be good for the industry. And, unemployment is still rising and will probably hit 10 percent before the end of the year. Consumer access to credit remains tight and many credit card companies are actually cutting the number of cardholders they have to keep down write-offs.

Luxury goods retailers have been particularly hard hit. They rely on a relatively small portion of the population for their sales. In some of their biggest markets, particularly New York City and south Florida, a large number of affluent people are out of work.

Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 24/7 Wall St.

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