Don’t Look Now! The Christmas Shopping Season Is Just Ahead
By David Dierking
I took a stroll through the mall the other day and noticed what most of you are probably noticing at stores everywhere – all of the Christmas decorations and merchandise are out in full force. Heck, I saw our mall putting up Christmas stuff in the middle of August. I guess it’s never soon enough to prepare for the busiest shopping season of the year.
Researchers are already rolling out the pessimistic forecasts for this year’s Christmas shopping season. A report from America’s Research Group indicates that 43% of shoppers surveyed plan to spend less than last year while just 11% plan to increase their holiday spending. That’s one of the more pessimistic readings the group has published in recent years.
While it’s still unclear whether or not this economy is still in recession, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of where their dollars are going. This season, shoppers are expected to do more comparison price shopping and look for additional internet or early bird specials. Expect to be hit especially hard in the stores, in the mail and online with circulars and advertisements.
Retailers for their part are expected to be up to the challenge. Many of them remain optimistic for robust sales. Big retailers like Macy’s and Kohl’s have announced that they plan to ramp up their seasonal staffing. Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas expects that overall holiday hiring will rise when compared to 2009.
In an effort to bring buyers in the doors, retailers are expected to make huge doorbuster offers similar to those on Black Friday last year. Big box stores like Walmart and Target are expected to again offer deals on everything from electronics and TVs to smart phones and GPS units.
Another trend that can be expected to continue is that Black Friday will kick off earlier and earlier. In fact, Amazon started a possible trend by turning Black Friday into Black Friday Week. Instead of kicking things off in the wee hours of the morning on the day after Thanksgiving, they began offering deals throughout the week in an effort to keep consumers shopping over a longer period of time.
And this year, expect a comeback from something that hasn’t been popular in many years – layaway. As the credit crunch continues to hit more and more households, consumers are looking for alternatives to finance their Christmas lists without loading up on credit. Cue the return of the layaway plan. Shoppers can now purchase items by putting a percentage of the purchase price down on a regular basis until it’s paid off while avoiding running up a credit card bill with huge finance charges in the meantime.
This holiday shopping season should give us a good idea where we stand from the standpoint of economic recovery. As the national unemployment rate continues to hover around the 10% mark, retailers should be cautious with expectations. That could put spenders in line to get some great deals along the way.
Let the holiday madness begin!
Photo credit: tom saunders
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