The big news so far this holiday season is that consumers are looking for deals from major discounters such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. But don't count out Beverly Hills' luxury retailers.

Michael Robinson, a spokesman for the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce, acknowledged that the holiday season has started off slowly, but the usual pattern is to have sales pick up closer to Christmas.

Based on the chamber's survey of early holiday sales, he cited Gearys Beverly Hills, which is off to a decent start despite not offering heavy discounts. "As an indicator, I think that is a pretty good one," said Robinson. "Jewelry looks like it is back."

Of stores that performed best on Black Friday, the day following Thanksgiving, Robinson said aggressive promotional activity and marketing were keys. For example, men's clothier Brooks Brothers opened early and offered 20 percent discounts on purchases made that morning. That drew crowds into the Rodeo Drive outlet, he said.

In November, upscale department stores that didn't leap on the promotional bandwagon got dinged. Saks Inc.'s same-store sales increase was a tiny .1 percent, while Nordstrom Inc. saw a 2.8 percent growth in same-stores sales, both below analysts' expectations.

"People have money to spend, but they are not spending it unless they are getting a compelling bargain," said Richard Giss, a partner at the Los Angeles office of Deloitte & Touche LLP. "The luxury retailers have traditionally not been the leaders in that category."

Hotel Numbers
Growth in the region's occupancy rate slowed to a crawl in October, although hotels continued to attract visitors even after hiking room rates.

Average occupancy in October was 77.9 percent, up from 77.7 percent in the year ago period, but down from a recent high of 83.5 percent in August, according to PKF Consulting. At a slim two-tenths of a point, the occupancy rate increase was also off September's 3.1 point year-over-year jump.

Santa Clarita hotels had the highest occupancy rate in October, at 85.9 percent. Hotels in the I-5 Corridor/Whittier submarket followed close behind.

Meanwhile, visitors to L.A.-area hotels were paying, on average, $129.39 per night in October, up from $122.93 in the same month last year. The average room rate in September was $125.85.

All county submarkets with the exception of Long Beach and downtown saw room rate increases in October. Hollywood saw the steepest increase, up 15 percent to $154.86. Beverly Hills hotels remained the priciest in the county, at $284.08 for a night's stay.

Mall Adds
The Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance is assembling a mix of movie theaters, restaurants and apparel stores to spice up its 400,000-square-foot new outdoor addition.

Among the entrants will be eateries P.F. Chang's, Left Bank, Jerry's Famous Deli, Lazy Dog Sports Bar & Grill, RA Sushi and Morton's, and clothiers Anthropologie, Eddie Bauer, Urban Outfitters, Levi's and Gap. Also going in are AMC Theatres with 18 screens, Lucky Strikes bowling alley, Cohiba cigar lounge and Village Gallery.

Elena Butorac-DeSalvo, Del Amo's general manager, said the two-story addition should be ready for shoppers in late summer next year. She said she's currently working on other leases to fill the new space.

After the lifestyle addition is completed, Mills Corp., the mall's owner, will renovate Del Amo's enclosed portion. In total, the makeover is expected to cost $300 million.

Butorac-DeSalvo said shoppers haven't been impacted by construction. She said the only change to the current mall is a reconfiguration of parking entrances and exits.

True Retail
True Religion Apparel Inc.'s first store opened in the Metlox Center in Manhattan Beach.

True Religion joins the growing list of premium denim companies starting their own retail ventures. Other companies that have recently opened stores include Blue Holdings Inc., maker of Antik denim, and Paige Premium Denim, owned by Fortune Casuals LLC.

True Religion's 900-square-foot store carries men's and women's apparel. The company plans to use the store to test new products before they are widely released.

Online Promotion
Becker Surfboards is among several local retailers doing its part to lure online shoppers for the holiday season.

The Torrance-based retailer tweaked its Web site and added some graphics and deals to draw shoppers. Becker also is running an online holiday contest where two winners will receive a $250 shopping spree on the Web site to buy garb from Quiksilver (the guy winner) and Roxy (the girl winner).

Foothill Ranch-based Wet Seal Inc. is promoting "Glam Gifts" on its Web site, which is offering free shipping on purchases of $60 or more. Irvine-based Tilly's Inc. also is offering free online shipping on orders over $75, while Jack's Surfboards has its own deal: free UPS ground shipping on orders over $90.

*Orange County staff reporter Jennifer Bellantonio contributed to this column. Staff reporter Rachel Brown can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 224, or by e-mail at .

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