- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 15, 2006

The number of people visiting Ocean City hit the million mark last month.

One million tourists visited the beach town, 6 percent more than in September 2005. It was Ocean City’s best September since at least 2000.

Last year, gas prices rose to a record $3.23 per gallon in the Washington area, keeping some vacationers home. In 2003, Hurricane Isabel hit, canceling one of the beach town’s fall festivals.

Donna Abbott, spokeswoman for the Ocean City Convention and Visitors Bureau, attributed the spike in visitors to a combination of good weather, declining gas prices and more scheduled events, such as the Oktoberfest and Fly-In air show.

“This year was just stellar from start to finish with weather and gas prices coming down and different activities going on,” she said. “It has really come together for an outstanding fall.”

Ocean City measures the number of people in town based on how much water is used.

Something to cheer about

The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), a New York trade group, is predicting a merry shopping season for retailers, but nothing spectacular. The group expects sales at chain stores open more than one year to increase 3 percent during November and December and 3.5 percent from November to January.

The ICSC is measuring spending for the traditional holiday season — November and December — as well as the “new” holiday season — November to January. The “new” season takes into account sales from holiday gift cards, which often are spent during the first month of the year.

The group issued three forms of measurement, underlining the idea that sales predictions can be cut several ways.

The ICSC expects store sales in shopping centers to increase 5.2 percent under the traditional definition of the holiday season and 5.7 percent under the new definition. Sales at department stores and stores that sell similar goods are expected to increase 4.8 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively.

The estimates are in line with what other retail analysts are predicting. The National Retail Federation has predicted a generous 5 percent increase during November and December.

Wegmans continues to expand

Regency Centers Corp., a Jacksonville, Fla., developer, is in the final stages of developing the Shops at Stonewall, a 40-acre shopping center at Lake Manassas in Prince William County, Va. The center will have 30,000 square feet of retail space, including a lease with Wegmans Food Markets.

Wegmans has three locations in the Washington area and at least two others under construction.

Regency, which specializes in shopping centers anchored by grocery stores, plans to submit site plans for county review later this fall.

Openings …

• Jared Jewelers is scheduled to open its seventh store in the Washington-Baltimore area this year. The store is under construction in Westfield Annapolis Mall.

• Best Buy opened a store in Wheaton at 10901 Georgia Ave. Friday. The electronics retailer now has 793 stores in the United States, 12 of them in the Washington area.

Retail & Hospitality appears Mondays. Send news to Jen Haberkorn at 202/636-4836 or jhaberkorn@washingtontimes.com.

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