Shopping Frenzy: Thousands Head For The Sales - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

12/26/05

Shopping Frenzy: Thousands Head For The Sales

The holiday buying frenzy is starting again.

The nation's shoppers headed back to malls early Monday morning for post-Christmas deals as retailers wooed them with a blitz of discounts, expanded shopping hours and fresh new merchandise in an effort to salvage sales in a season that's turning out to be only ho-hum.

This year shoppers waited even longer than last year to do their holiday shopping, creating more angst among retailers.

Now merchants are relying even more on the post-Christmas season, hoping that consumers will snap up discounted holiday leftovers as well as new regular-priced merchandise.

In particular, given the booming popularity of gift cards, stores are counting on customers to spend their gift cards quickly -- gift cards are only recorded as sales when they are redeemed.

In a bid to prop up profits and sales in the post-Christmas season, a growing number of stores such as Coach Inc., American Eagle Outfitters Inc. and Casual Male Big & Tall are showcasing some spring merchandise while KB Toys Inc. is pushing new items related to the "King Kong" movie.

But on Monday morning shoppers focused on the discounted holiday merchandise, from ornaments to sweaters.

Macy's offered 50 percent to 60 percent reductions on wool coats, while at Sears, Roebuck & Co. stores, early morning deals included $19.99 jeans and $159.99 Sony megapixel digital cameras.

At the Buckland Hills Mall in Manchester, Connecticut, Chevy Ricketts browsed for napkin ring holders at Filene's department store following the 6 a.m. opening but couldn't resist snagging a half-price sweater during the early-bird sale.

"It was pretty and I picked it up," said Ricketts, of East Windsor, Connecticut. "It was reduced from $32 to $15."

Ann Murray of Tolland, Connecticut, found a $10 sweater, a two-piece suit for $30 and a matching top for $6. "At this price you can throw them away and not take them to the dry cleaners," she said.

Family that shops together...

Also at the Buckland Hills Mall was Laura Snyder, who was visiting from Maryland. She returned a pocketbook and outfit that she received as gifts from her children. She said she would look for good prices on Tommy Hilfiger and Polo brands. "I shop for myself after Christmas, never before," she said.

Post-Christmas shopping is a family tradition for sisters Cookie Wayte and Joann Mitchell, who waited outside with a few eager shoppers for Filene's to open.

"We wait in the parking lot and when the lights come on, we say it's time to come in," said Wayte, who was visiting from Cincinnati.

Meanwhile, at a Wal-Mart store in Durham, North Carolina, Elizabeth Jones, 28, of Chapel Hill, waited in her car Monday at 6 a.m., so that she'd have the best selection of wrapping paper, ribbons and other package decorations.

"I have a wrapping fetish, and so I always come out the day after Christmas so I can stock up for next year," she said. Jones said she had some store gift cards to redeem, but didn't plan to use them Monday.

John Barbee, 55, of Durham, said he was hunting for good deals and may scout out gifts for next year.

"I always shop early," he said. He left the store with $151 worth of holiday decorations, Christmas cards and a makeup kit likely to become a gift for a granddaughter.

Modest expectations

Michael P. Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers, expects the week after Christmas will be "big." But he still believes that merchants will wind up with a modest 3 percent to 3.5 percent sales increase for the November-December period.

The estimate is based on same-store sales, which are sales at stores opened at least a year. But Niemira added that if more shoppers than expected redeem their gift cards this week, that could boost December sales by 0.75 percentage point.

Niemira expects that 20 percent of gift card holders will redeem their cards this week. There's motivation to spend it soon. While many stores have been loosening up the restrictions on when shoppers can use the card, consumers still face fees and expiration dates from some, particularly for gift cards issued through national banks.

According to ShopperTrak RCT Corp, the week after Christmas accounted for 10 percent of holiday sales last year, but analysts expect that period could account for as much as 14 percent, given gift cards' soaring popularity.

The National Retail Federation estimates that consumers will spend $18.48 billion on gift cards this holiday season, up 6.6 percent from a year ago, based on a survey conducted by BIGresearch.

 

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