This holiday season, the busiest part of the year for retailers, time was not an issue. Many stores extended their hours and consumers had at least a month between Black Friday and Christmas to complete their holiday shopping. But the year didn't stand out for Florida's retail industry, which had the smallest holiday sales growth since 2008. [Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
Florida’s consumer confidence remained unchanged in December, according to a monthly University of Florida survey. December’s figure was 74, the same as the revised November reading. Overall confidence reached a post-recession peak in September and October at 80, but is down six points for the second month. [Source: UF News]
Buying knockoff purses or pirated DVDs may seem harmless for some holiday shoppers, but money spent on counterfeit items can end up funding organized crime in the U.S. and around the world. And the products themselves can mess up your computers and steal your identity. [Source: Orlando Sentinel]
Natural gas was used to generate 62 percent of Florida’s electricity this year, and the fuel is expected to continue to dominate, the Florida Public Service Commission said in a report. [Source: Palm Beach Post]
When Diana Pierre-Louis entered a contest to rebrand her husband's native country of Haiti, she didn't know she would win, let alone be a guest of the president. Twice. Now this Fort Lauderdale native turned West Boca media guru is helping the tourism ministry pro bono. She wants the world to know that most of Haiti is open for visitors and business. [Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:
› Florida is a vacation paradise for dogs [AP]
Picture this: You're sitting on a white sand beach, warm sun on your skin. Coconut-scented sunscreen wafts through the air. A splashing noise comes from the blue Gulf of Mexico. It's your dog, happily retrieving his favorite ball from the water. This could be your vacation, with a bit of planning.
› 90-year-old real estate baron, philanthropist is forever young [Miami Herald]
Real estate baron Jay I. Kislak discovered a Fountain of Youth of sorts that springs from an inquisitive and acquisitive mind. At 90, Kislak is wheeling and dealing in real estate, and he’s exploring history and art with the fervor of a man generations younger.
› Gun shops sell out amid fears of a ban [Sarasota Herald-Tribune]
When Gunsmith Gallery manager Jacqueline Riding gets to work each morning, there are frantic customers waiting for her in the parking lot or pounding on the front door. “It's all about the ban,” she said. “It's about being afraid they may not be able to get a gun. I've never seen anything like it.”
› Florida deodorant company spreads cancer awareness [South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
The next time you spray, rub or roll on deodorant, take a moment to think about breast cancer and the millions of women who have beaten the deadly disease, as well as those still fighting the battle of a lifetime. And don't be afraid to drop that deodorant for a healthier option.
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› Fees undermine fliers' ability to compare fares [AP]
For many passengers, air travel is only about finding the cheapest fare. But as airlines offer a proliferating list of add-on services, from early boarding to premium seating and baggage fees, the ability to comparison-shop for the lowest total fare is eroding.
› Businesses hopeful for economic boost from Outback Bowl [ABC Action News]
The South Carolina Gamecocks football team arrived in Tampa on Wednesday afternoon. They will take on the Michigan Wolverines in the upcoming Outback Bowl on New Year's Day. Local businesses hope to cash in on the game.
› OPKO Health buys Brazilian company [Miami Herald]
OPKO Health, the Miami healthcare company, announced Wednesday that it’s expanding its growing Latin American operations with the purchase of a Brazilian company, Silcon Comércio, Importacao E Exportacao de Produtos Farmaceuticos e Cosmeticos Ltda.
» Related: SBA Communications launches operations in Brazil
› Iconic blues bar Dave's Aqua Lounge closes [Tampa Bay Times]
After 48 years, Dave's Aqua Lounge, the smoky little blues lounge that proudly called itself a joint, is closed. Owner Dave Mamber Jr., who took over the namesake bar from his father, has sold the Gandy Boulevard location in St. Petersburg but the name is going with him.