Retail spending at Army and Air Force Exchange Service stores in Europe during the 2005 holiday season fell by about $8 million compared to 2004, according to numbers provided by AAFES last week.

For the past season, AAFES reported retail sales of about $105 million, compared to about $113 million in 2004.

Worldwide, AAFES saw a gain of about 4 percent, from about $766 million in sales to $794 million.

The drop in retail spending at AAFES stores in Europe was most likely a result of numerous deployments over this past holiday season, said Teresa Gaskins, an AAFES retail program specialist.

A shortage of certain hot-ticket items at the stores also may have been a reason for the drop in sales, she said.

Because of predetermined allotments of items such as iPods and the Xbox 360 video game console, many AAFES stores did not have enough of the products to meet the high demand, she said.

“The stores can’t order [the items] themselves,” Gaskins said. “A lot of stuff that people were able to get in the States, we couldn’t get a lot of.”

Items like the new Xbox sold fast when they came in at a Bitburg, Germany, store, she said. “We got 36 of them and they were gone in a matter of minutes,” Gaskins said.

The drop in AAFES Europe retail sales was in contrast to holiday retail spending numbers in the States.

The Wall Street Journal reported in December that U.S. consumers spent 8.7 percent more over this last holiday shopping period than they did a year ago.

Citing a study by SpendingPulse, an affiliate of MasterCard Inc., the Journal reported that the biggest increases came in spending on home furnishings, followed by electronics and appliances.

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