The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Lifestyles

December 24, 2012

Shoppers go down to the wire

Experts say stores should see modest growth in sales over last year

NEW YORK — Shoppers who waited until the final days before Christmas were rewarded with big bargains and lighter crowds. But their last-minute deal hunting may hurt stores.

Although fresh data on the holiday shopping season won’t be available until Christmas, analysts expect growth from last year to be modest. Several factors have dampened shoppers’ spirits, including fears that the economy could fall off the “fiscal cliff,” triggering tax increases and spending cuts early next year.

On Christmas Eve, Taubman Centers, which operates 28 malls across the country, reported a “very strong weekend.” But many last-minute shoppers in cities including New York, Atlanta and Indianapolis were spending less than they did last year, and taking advantage of big discounts of up to 70 percent that hurt stores’ profits.

Kris Betzold, 40, of Carmel, Ind., was out at the Fashion Mall at Keystone in Indianapolis on Monday looking for deals on toys, and said she’s noticed the sales are “even better now than they were at Thanksgiving.”  She said the economy has prompted her and her husband to be more frugal this year.

“We under-budgeted ourselves by $400 for Christmas because we just wanted to put that money back in savings,” she said.

Dianne Ashford, 40, who was at the Lenox Square Mall in Atlanta on Monday, said she was spending $500 on gifts this year, down from the $1,000 she normally spends.

“Times are hard,” said Ashford, who works for a film production company. The best deal she found this year was a guitar for her mother, half off at $79.

Other last-minute shoppers said they were holding off as much as possible for even bigger post-holiday sales.

Chris Ailes, a 37-year-old TV producer, also was at the Lenox Square on Monday to pick up last-minute gifts for his mom and grandmother. With the economy so shaky, he and his family are trying to cut back on spending. So he said he’s looking forward to discounts after Christmas.

“That’s when the sales are going on,” he said.

That’s grim news for retailers, which typically get 40 percent of their annual sales in the critical November to December period. Although the week after Christmas is considered part of the season, by that time retailers are backed into a corner since it’s their last chance to get rid of items that have been sitting on shelves for months. The steep discounts during that time mean sales are less profitable.

ShopperTrak, which counts foot traffic and its own proprietary sales numbers from 40,000 retail outlets across the country, last Wednesday cut its forecast for holiday spending down to 2.5 percent growth to $257.7 billion, from prior expectations of a 3.3 percent rise.

Online, sales rose just 8.4 percent to $48 billion from Oct. 28 through Saturday, according to a measure by MasterCard Advisors’ SpendingPulse. That is below the online sales growth of between 15 to 17 percent seen in the prior 18-month period.

Marshal Cohen, chief research analyst at the market research firm NPD Inc., said retailers will have to be more aggressive than usual with discounts in the days after Christmas to get shoppers to spend. That could mean some stores will slash prices by as much as 80 percent to make shoppers believe the sales are a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”

“Consumers are going to be rewarded for waiting until after the holidays,” he said.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Lifestyles
  • beach boys.jpg 'Love those Beach Boys

    Despite riding the wave of success for more than 50 years, founding member Mike Love of The Beach Boys is anything but bored.

    March 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • third day 1.JPG Christian entertainers ready to rock arena

    Top Christian performers will join together for one big evening of music.

    March 16, 2014 3 Photos

  • raz.jpg "Grown Ups 2" razzed

     "Grown Ups 2" is making the most noise at this year's Golden Raspberry Awards

    January 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • iStock_000022758530XSmall.jpg 12 annoying songs of Christmas

    It's that time of year, when Christmas songs fill shops, restaurants and your home. While anything on repeat can drive you mad, these 12 tunes are some of the most annoying.

    December 1, 2013 1 Photo

  • 8a5319c0595635132e67b282cdcd3136.jpg 6 creative ways to use your Thanksgiving leftovers

    The day of eating has passed and the fridge is full of leftovers. Check out our Pinterest board of recipes and creative ways to make meals from the remnants of Thanksgiving.

    November 29, 2013 1 Photo

  • 0801-couple-married.jpg Engagement ring lost, found on wedding-eve bike ride across Iowa

    When a bride-to-be lost her engagement ring while cycling across the state of Iowa last week, finding it again seemed like an impossible task.

    August 1, 2013 1 Photo

  • Film-Speedy Zombies_Denn.jpg Penn State prof lends zombie expertise to World War Z

    In a scene of the movie "World War Z," hundreds — maybe thousands — of virus-infected people swarm at the base of a wall in Jerusalem to find more humans to bite and infect. These zombies then form a human ladder to charge over the wall, which Israel's government had put up in the hope of sparing the city the wrath of the creatures.

    A professor at Penn State had something to do with that part of the movie.

    June 28, 2013 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX People Paula _Denn.jpg Paula Deen's 'Today' appearance ends in tears

    Paula Deen dissolved into tears during a "Today" show interview Wednesday about her admission that she used a racial slur in the past, saying anyone in the audience who's never said anything they've regretted should pick up a rock and throw it at her head.

    June 26, 2013 1 Photo

  • NY Premiere White Hou_Denn.jpg Movie Review | 'White House Down' doesn't live up to expectations

    "Independence Day", The Day After Tomorrow" and "2012" were guilty pleasures — excessive in every way, from their frenetic Wile E. Coyote action sequences down to their impressive A-list casts. And they worked. But while Emmerich's "White House Down" mostly sticks to the same formula, this latest cinematic assault on the Oval Office fails to deliver on the campaign promise that it will be as fun as the original "Die Hard."

    June 26, 2013 1 Photo

  • gtr-tatpastor01-06081_Denn.jpg For pastors, tattoos as symbols of faith

    As the spiritual leader for two United Church of Christ congregations, the Rev. Richard Lindsay-Bignell found a way to combine his love of the ministry and his passion for art.

    June 10, 2013 1 Photo

Poll

Do you think that Jack Williams will get the 270 signatures from city residents needed in order to have a referendum placed on a municipal ballot to have the city's pressure test mandate repealed?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results