Posted tagged ‘Holiday Shopping’

Retailers Giving Bargains to Shoppers Who Ask

December 23, 2008

Shoppers are asking for bargains beyond retailers’ marked discounts, and in many cases they’re getting them. Best Buy, for instance, is matching competitors’ prices, and store managers at J. Crew are refunding the difference between the original price and the sale price. Stores that won’t haggle are loosening their return policies.

From the Associated Press:

With holiday sales shaping up to be the lowest in years, possibly the worst since the industry began annual comparisons in 1969, retailers say they’re taking consumers’ demands for good deals seriously. Some are extending return policies, while others are matching competitors’ prices. Many are volunteering on-the-spot discounts and even letting customers haggle prices well down from what’s marked in a desperate bid to make the cash register ring.

“You’d have to be a moron not to ask for a discount,” said Stephen Hoch, a retailing expert at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

More and more consumers are doing just that, treating a trip to the mall like a visit to the used car lot.

Allen Chen, a part-time cashier at a J. Crew store in White Plains, N.Y., said shoppers with two-month-old receipts are asking for partial refunds for items now on sale. Normally, the store’s policy is to refund the difference between an item’s purchase price and a later sale price only if it goes on sale within seven days of the purchase.

“When I tell them it is past the seven-day policy, they tell me that they will just return it and re-buy it” at the sale price, he said, adding that his store managers are now allowing customers to do so most of the time.

Shoppers are also being far more savvy about asking retailers to match a competitor’s lower price.

While shopping for Blu-ray discs at a Los Angeles Best Buy, Luis Levy used his cell phone to check the price at nearby competitors. Each disc was $10 cheaper at Circuit City or Wal-Mart. Best Buy matched the lower prices.

Diana Thang, manager of Grace Jewelers near San Francisco’s Union Square, said she and her staff are bargaining more than she ever has in two-plus decades in the business. But it’s not working wonders.

“They have a budget,” Thang said of most customers this season. “We give a low, low price and they still can’t accept it. They’re looking at more than $1,000 stuff, and they want to spend $200 or $300.”

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Retailers Hope To Attract Shoppers With Huge Discounts

December 22, 2008

Over the last weekend before Christmas, retailers were offering huge discounts. Macy’s sold designer purses for half price, and jewelry was knocked down 40%, while more than a dozen of its stores are staying open around the clock until Christmas Eve. At some Kmart and Sears locations, shoppers lined up in search of deals before the stores opened.

From the New York Times:

The deals were there and, by most accounts, so were the shoppers. But at the close of the final holiday shopping weekend, consumers confessed they were still nervous about buying.

”This is going to be a poor Christmas,” said Dee Dobbins, a 31-year-old from Goldsboro, N.C., who finished her holiday shopping with money she’d received from her recent graduation from North Carolina State University. ”At least I had it, because I don’t know what I would have done.”

From flagship department stores to main street shops, consumers found packed parking lots, massive markdowns and extended hours — in some places, around-the-clock shopping — as merchants hope to salvage one of the worst shopping seasons in decades, brought on by the recession and growing economic uncertainty.

For those willing to spend, the deals abounded.

In Miami, Ana Solis bought T-shirts from the Disney Store featuring Kermit the Frog and Tigger. One shirt — original price $24.99 — was marked down to $7.99 before another 40 percent discount.

At the flagship Macy’s store on 34th Street in New York, shoppers swarmed racks offering 65 percent off women’s clothing. Elsewhere, the store was offering 50 percent off handbags by designers such as Dooney & Bourke and Coach and 40 percent off gold earrings.

Chris Moscardelli snagged a cashmere blanket for more than half off.

”It’s been a great day,” the 38-year-old said.

But not for Ahmad Parpia, the store manager of Marquise Jewelers inside Dallas’ Valley View Mall, who’s seen his most profitable period of the year fizzle out. Few shoppers are coming inside the jeweler’s four stores to buy diamond-encrusted chains, gold watches and jewelry, despite signs advertising: ”Financing available up to $10,000. Will beat any competitive price.”

”It’s almost like 80 percent down over the last two years,” he said. ”I’ve never seen before a Christmas like that, and I’ve been in this business almost 15 years.”

The International Council of Shopping Centers expects established stores to post their worst performance for the holidays since at least 1969, when it began tracking such data. It predicts same-store sales — or sales at stores open at least a year — will fall as much as 1 percent for the November and December period, and fears the decline could even be steeper.

Still, shoppers were out at Kmart and Sears stores this weekend as customers stocked up on last-minute gifts and electronics like Nintendo’s Wii, Blu-ray players, digital cameras and tools. In some cases, shoppers lined up before stores opened for weekend doorbuster deals.

”For the most part, we beat our previous week, which was a great kind of benchmark, because last week was strong for us,” said Tom Aiello, a spokesman for the stores owned by Sears Holdings Corp.

Retailers Catering To Late Night Shoppers

December 22, 2008

Macy’s, Toys R Us and H&M are just a handful of retailers aiming to appeal to night owls during this holiday season. The chains will stay open 24 hours at select locations, hoping to capture last-minute shoppers.

From the Wall Street Journal:

At 4 a.m. Saturday, while most people in the city that never sleeps were nevertheless sleeping, Camille Joseph was wandering the aisles of Toys “R” Us in New York’s Times Square.

Saying she hates crowds, the 37-year-old Ms. Joseph was thrilled to be able to finish her shopping when no one was around. Surrounded by packages filled with a dollhouse, videogames and a robot, she sprawled on the floor next to a cash register. “Could you imagine being able to do this during the day?” said Ms. Joseph, who by day is a manager at Starbucks.

Starting this past Friday and continuing until 8 p.m. Christmas Eve, Toys “R” Us is embracing procrastinators, night owls and curiosity seekers by keeping its New York flagship — billed as the world’s largest toy store — open continuously for 134 hours.

In the final countdown of one of the worst holiday retail seasons in decades, more retailers have extended hours and are staying open for 24-hour periods or more in a last-ditch effort to capture sales. Macy’s Inc., L.L. Bean International, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Hennes & Mauritz AB’s H&M chain added extreme hours at select locations this year, they said, as a way to enhance customer service, reduce congestion and compete for last-minute sales.

“In this kind of environment, you do whatever it takes,” said Michael Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers.

Snowstorms across the country during the last shopping weekend before Christmas are expected to make the already-dismal retail season even worse, some retailers said. Numbers weren’t available Sunday, but ShopperTrak RCT Corp. said that the final weekend before Christmas typically accounts for 11.5% of holiday sales. Last year, Super Saturday brought in $8.7 billion in retail sales. Retail sales for the six weeks to Dec. 13 are down 2% from a year earlier.

Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at market researcher NPD Group, has been visiting malls in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Georgia since Friday. He said “traffic was on par with last year,” but noticed fewer purchases per person. “Last year, people couldn’t carry their bags out of stores,” he said. “This year, half the shoppers had one hand free.”

Kathleen Waugh, a spokeswoman for Toys “R” Us, said it was premature to say whether the benefits of keeping the Times Square store open continuously outweighed the costs. “We will evaluate its success once the event is over at 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve,” she said.

Holiday Shopping is Far From Over

December 16, 2008

Shoppers still have a lot of holiday shopping to do — the typical consumer has finished 47%, compared with 53% this time last year, according to an NRF survey. NRF President Tracy Mullin said a late Thanksgiving might be to blame. “Retailers will try to manage the rush of last-minute shoppers with expanded hours, extra employees to stock shelves, and a lot of sales and promotions,” Mullin said.

From CNNMoney:

With just over a week to go until Christmas, consumers have completed less than half of their holiday shopping – and millions have not even started yet, according to a report released Tuesday.

The procrastination comes as retail industry experts say a worsening economy and mounting job losses mean households will likely buy fewer gifts this year and possibly for fewer people.

According to the National Retail Foundation’s “Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions” survey, holiday shoppers said they had finished 47% of their gift shopping by the second week of December, which is a significant drop from the 53% of gift purchases they had completed at the same time last year.

Only 8% of respondents said their shopping is complete, and more than 41 million people have not even begun their holiday shopping.

The big procrastinators were men and 35-to-44 year-olds – 21% of each group said they haven’t started their shopping.

The NRF cited this year’s shortened shopping season as a likely culprit. There are five fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year than there were last year.

The shortened shopping season “means that the holidays have snuck up on many of us,” NRF president Tracy Mullin said in a written statement. “Retailers will try to manage the rush of last-minute shoppers with expanded hours, extra employees to stock shelves, and a lot of sales and promotions.”

Holiday Gift Shopping? Check Out Sisters Three

December 12, 2008

I thought I’d take a break from discussing the Caylee and Casey Anthony case (and the infamous naked Minnesota Vikings football player) to tell you about a company that I think everyone should know about.

The company is run by the family of a good friend of mine. If you’re in need of any last minute holiday gifts, check out Sisters Three. As you may have guessed by their name, Sisters Three is a combined effort of, well, three sisters.

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From their Web site:

We offer quality hand made clothing and goods that are created with love. We are just getting started, but will have new things up as often as possible. Our creations make wonderful gifts for any occasion, and with the holidays right around the corner it is a perfect time to pick up something special. Whether it is one of our in stock items or a custom order, you will be very happy with the quality and craftsmanship of all of our work. We have all sorts of great things like sweaters, hats, scarves, blankets, bookmarks and cross stitched pictures. Please feel free to check us out often, and tell your friends about Sisters Three.


They love custom orders….just drop them a note @ SistersThreeGifts@gmail.com

Also, sign up to be a friend on their MySpace page. These are great people with a great new company that is just getting started!

Kmart Enlists Bloggers for PR

December 12, 2008

Six influential bloggers have been given $500 gift certificates to spend at Kmart in exchange for blogging about the experience. The posts were not censored by Kmart, and the bloggers clearly disclosed their agreement with the retailer. The blog posts seem to be the tip of the spear for a larger marketing effort which will include contests and more traditional advertisements meant to persuade holiday shoppers to revisit Kmart stores.

From MediaPost Publications:

A sponsored social networking campaign enlisting the help of six well-known bloggers is yielding big buzz for Kmart and encouraging consumers to give the retailer another look during the critical holiday season.

Kmart gave each of six influential bloggers a $500 gift certificate to go on a shopping spree in the store and then blog about their shopping experiences in any way they saw fit (no censorship). The bloggers clearly disclosed this sponsored arrangement in their respective postings.

In addition, Kmart is sponsoring a contest in which one community member from each of the six blogs will win a $500 gift certificate to go on a Kmart shopping spree.

In their postings about their own shopping sprees, the original bloggers let those in their communities know that they could enter to win a $500 Kmart shopping certificate in one of two ways. They could either place a comment on the blog’s post, consisting of a holiday wish list of items totaling under $500 that are carried at Kmart (including a description and SKU number for each item), or use Twitter to tweet the message provided on each blog’s posting area.

An added exposure element is also involved, via social media marketing company Izea, through which the campaign is being run. In addition to managing formal campaigns like Kmart’s six-blogger shopping spree/postings effort, Izea enables advertisers/sponsors to link up with selected bloggers within its network of approximately 250,000 participating blogs who want to carry transparent, paid-for sponsor ads or postings. (Participating bloggers adhere to a code of ethics that requires disclosure of those posts that are sponsored.) This provides added “long tail” exposure for sponsors, explains Izea founder/CEO Ted Murphy.

Bloggers can review paid sponsorships being offered through Izea’s SocialSpark blog marketing network or its PayPerPost program and sign up to participate in specific sponsorships that appear to match up to their blogs’ content/demographics. The sponsor determines the amounts offered; the terms range from pay-per-post to pay-per-day to CPA. In this case, bloggers could sign up to run a Kmart banner about the shopping contest.

KB Toys Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

December 12, 2008

KB Toys has filed for bankruptcy protection and plans to close its 277 mall-based stores and 114 outlets. In its Chapter 11 filings, the chain blamed “sudden and sharp decline in consumer sales due to macro-economic concerns.”

From the Associated Press:

In another sign of the grim holiday season, KB Toys filed for bankruptcy protection for the second time in four years on Thursday and plans to begin going-out-of business sales at its stores immediately.

The 86-year-old company said in a filing that its debt is “directly attributable to a sudden and sharp decline in consumer sales” because of the poor economy.

That a toy retailer filed for bankruptcy just before Christmas shows how bleak things have become, since such stores make up to half of their sales during the holidays. But analysts expect toy sales this holiday season to be flat or down slightly from last year’s total of $10.4 billion, according to market research firm NPD Group, because consumers are cutting back amid the recession.

In response, toy retailers, including KB Toys, amped up their discounts.

KB Toys had aggressively cut prices to entice cash-strapped shoppers, offering hundreds of toys for $10 or less. It also expanded its value program, which offers deals on new items each week, and offered “Buy 2, Get 1 Free” promotions.

But the deals weren’t enough. In the filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, KB Toys said that between Oct. 5 and Dec. 8 sales in stores open at least one year, a key retail metric known as same-store sales, fell nearly 20 percent.

The company said it considered its alternatives and decided the most viable way to cover its debt was to begin liquidating its stores via immediate going-out-of-business sales. KB Toys also plans to sell its wholesale distribution business, according to the filing.