The Associated Press & Peace and Freedom
At the outset of this holiday shopping season, we wrote about the perils retailers faced between “Black Friday” and Christmas even in the best of times. With fuel prices on the rise and the housing crisis still putting the brakes on house and home construction and sales; this year seemed to offer even more risks. Now, despite the upbead proclimations of President Bush, it is appearing that this will be a black year for retailers across the nation.
With less than three days left until Christmas, the nation’s retailers are in a lather to attract last-minute shoppers to salvage what has been a mediocre December.
Department-store operator Macy’s Inc. has slashed prices on everything from clothing to jewelry, while Toys “R” Us is offering price cuts of up to 75 percent this weekend. At stake are retailers’ profits for the year and perhaps even the strength of the economy.
While consumers jammed stores at the start of the season for big discounts and shopped early for Nintendo Co.’s hard-to-find Wii game console, popular video games like “Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock” and Australian sheepskin UGG boots, they waited until the end for most everything else, to take advantage of the best deals amid a challenging economy.
The biggest disappointment comes from women’s apparel, extending a downturn that’s grown deeper in recent months and serving as an ominous sign for the health of retailing in general. Women do the primary shopping for the family, so analysts say it’s troubling that they are spending less time in the stores.
“I have no money or time to shop,” said Tina Morabito, who just started her holiday shopping on Friday morning at the Providence Mall, in Providence, R.I. She was buying some greeting cards and mint chocolates, but didn’t plan to buy clothing.
“There’s been a malaise” among women’s clothing sales and “it has spread to other areas,” said Dan Hess, chief executive of Merchant Forecast, a New York-based research firm. “The panic button has been pushed, particularly in department stores.”
And even with an expected sales surge this weekend, which traditionally accounts for about 10 percent of holiday sales, Lazard Capital Markets analyst Todd Slater expects that the last-minute spending will be “too little, too late” to save Christmas.
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