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A Very Good Year

It's 14 days until Christmas, CBS News Correspondent Randall Pinkston reports, and shopping malls across the country are packed with customers.

At the current pace, sales could top $180 billion, a 6 percent gain over 1998. "We're seeing a tremendous amount of increase in traffic over last year," says Eileen Lee, who manages an Old Navy clothing store.

With recent cooler weather, winter clothing sales are up. And just in time, since merchants count on holiday shopping for most of their annual profit. "We're actually selling more than last year," Lee says. "The customers are buying more items and spending more money."

Shopper Sharon Webber thinks trips to the mall have "been fun this year because everyone seems happier." And happy shoppers spend money, driving retail sales off the charts.

According to retail analyst Steve Kernkraut, "There is every likelihood that December will be a great month and will go do down in the record books as one of the best Christmases ever."

Even as they enjoy the current boom, retailers are facing tougher competition to attract customers' attention. Some businesses are reinventing themselves to provide more value for the dollar.

Banana Republic will check your coat, charge your cellular phone, and offer free delivery for big purchases. Other merchants are counting on discounts, coupons and consumers like Corrine McGuire. She came to the mall to exchange a sweater, but left with two shopping bags. "Every time I come back, I seem to pick up more things," she laughs.

She's just the kind of shopper merchants are banking on.

Meanwhile, it's been the best of times, period, on Wall Street this year, CBS News Correspondent Anthony Mason reports. The Nasdaq hit a new high Friday, and those who work in the industry -- from top money managers to lowly office staff -- are licking their chops over the hefty bonuses being handed out.

They'll be divvying up an $11 billion bonus pool, up 25 percent over last year. Top executives are taking home as much as $5- to $7 million each.

Lower level employees are cashing in too. "You've got your technical people, junior level people and back office support people who probably are all getting $60-, $70,000 up to several hundred thousand dollars," explains Gary Goldstein, CEO Headway Corporate Resources.

In fact, 24-year-old technology manager David Tse's bonus is helping him buy his second Porsche, valued at over $50,000. "People spend their money in different ways," he says. "Some people will go buy lots of gifts, I for myself... love cars."

He's not alone with that passion. According to Manhattan Motorcars General Manager Brian Miller, "Now everybody's making big money and they are wanting the next model up."

And that's not all they want. How about a $2 million diamond necklace from Harry Winston? Or a penthouse apartment?

"These kids who are spending $80-, $900,000 on an apartment," quips realtor Barbara Corcoran, "I almost want to ask for their driver's license, [they] are so young and have so much money to spend!"

So much money they are driving away other buyers: those bonus-deprived, ordinary rich folks who can't take the pressure of the buying frenzy.

New York resident Brad Miller says, "I guess as a buyer of property, I wish they hadn't had such a good year-- I would have less competition and if I can't find a place to buy, we will just have to wait for a bad time on Wall Street."

When will that be? Maybe in the next Millenium. Right now, the party goes on for Wall Street -- and those bonus babies.