MIKE ARMSTRONG:   Coming up: May retail sales are out, and the chains are reporting their results today. We’ll tell you if Americans got back to doing what they do best: Shopping. Still no buyer for Atlantic City’s Tropicana. Now the state-appointed official in charge of the casino wants more time to sell it. And here’s a switch: Good news on housing, and it involves condos. Philadelphia Business Today starts now.


MIKE ARMSTRONG:   We’ve been waiting to see if those economic stimulus checks might convince people to go shopping. It looks like not all of the money is going into the gas tank. Today, many of the biggest retail chains released their sales for May, and Thompson Financial says most beat analyst expectations. Locally, Mothers Work, the company that sells maternity wear, said that same-store sales were up  4.3% over May 2007. Rite-Aid, the Camp Hill drugstore chain, said same-store sales rose 1.3% in May. You can buy all kinds of things in drugstores now, but prescriptions still accounted for 67% of Rite-Aid’s May sales. It was not a good month for Bon-Ton Stores. The York department store chain said sales open at least a year were down 9.9%. Management blamed unseasonably cool weather.

So far it’s no-sale for the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City. It’s been in limbo since the New Jersey Casino Control Commission refused to issue a license to its former owner last December. Gary Stein, the conservator in charge of selling the Trop, wants another 120 days to find a buyer. It’s really not a great time to be selling a casino. Many of the biggest companies in the gambling industry are already carrying enormous amounts of debt, and business is off at the Tropicana. Revenue year-to-date is down 13%, the most of Atlantic City’s 11 casinos. You can read staff writer Suzette Parmley’s story about the Tropicana sale in Friday’s Inquirer.

Worried all those condo for-sale signs in Center City mean the local economy is in trouble? Think again. Other parts of the country may be suffering from overbuilding and speculation, but in Philadelphia the growth in condos has been a source of strength. According to the Recorder of Deeds office, there are twice as many condo units in Center City now as there were in 1990, and there value has been appreciating. Condos are still selling. Thirty-two condos in Center City sold for one million dollars or more in the first quarter; for all of 2007, 115 condos in that price range changed hands. And developers still have hundreds of units planned or are under construction. It’s always tough to predict when a boom will end, but for now, condos are king in Philadelphia. You can read reporter Al Heaven’s story about the best-selling condo projects in today’s Inquirer.

That’s it for today. At the Inquirer, I’m Mike Armstrong for Philadelphia Business Today.


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