Snohomish County stores dangle discounts to grab shoppers

EVERETT — It’s deja vu for holiday retail shopping this year, with similar items from last year topping consumers’ lists.

Home entertainment items, electronics and low-cost toys remain popular items this year, according to retail surveys. But many consumers are heading to the stores today with higher expectations from their favorite retailers.

“May the retailers with the best promotions win,” said Pamela Goodfellow, an analyst with BIGresearch, which conducts retail surveys.

As consumer spending has slumped over the last year, retailers have increased promotions, particularly on popular items. A recent study by consultant Deloitte revealed that roughly 38 percent of people shopping for toys or electronics expect a discount of 50 percent or more. And half of shoppers who plan to buy jewelry or clothing also expect to see price tags slashed by 50 percent or more.

In terms of home entertainment and electronics, a quick glance at sale ads for today shows many retailers are responding.

Best Buy, for instance, is garnering Web buzz by offering HP laptops as low as $197 and LED flat-screen TVs for as much as $1,000 off the regular price. Likewise, Wal-Mart will offer emachine laptops for under $200 in the early-morning hours. It also will sell a selection of 100 DVD titles for $2 each on Friday.

According to a BIGresearch study, video games topped the list of toys for boys, followed by Transformers toys and LEGOs. GameStop stores are marking down several popular video games by $20 each and offering free shipping for orders of $25 or more.

Popular gifts for girls include Barbie, which retains the top spot for the sixth year in a row, followed by dolls and Hannah Montana toys. Toys R Us has aimed many of its sales at these top-selling toys. On both Friday and Saturday, the retailer will sell Hannah Montana dolls for 60 percent off the regular price.

Julie Tennyson, marketing director with the Everett Mall, noted a trend in merchandise for teenagers.

“Anything ‘Twilight’ is going to fly off the shelves,” she said, referring to the vampire romance books and movies.

However, Tennyson also predicts many shoppers will stick with the basics, such as clothing, shoes and necessities for the home.

Good deals, however, don’t mean that inventories on popular items, particularly hot toys, will hold. Some stores have opted to order less this year rather than be left holding extra inventory. Zhu Zhu pet hamster toys have won over so many people that many retailers predict a shortage this holiday season.

Although gift card sales are expected to dip this year, retailers aren’t giving up. For instance, Fred Meyer, which sells cards from a variety of retailers, including Applebee’s, iTunes and Sears, will give consumers a deal for buying cards there. For every $100 worth of gift cards bought at Fred Meyer, consumers will get $10 off their purchase. The Everett Mall also offers a gift card bonus.

Several retailers also will offer limited time promotions through social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter throughout the weekend. To help organize some of those, the retailer Web site has a list of hourly promotions by major retailers such as Borders and KMart. also has a page listing free shipping offers from various retailers.

Don’t want to tread out into the crowds? Millions of people will hit the Web on Nov. 30 for “Cyber Monday” — the kickoff of the online retail holiday season. Nearly nine in 10 online retailers plan to offer special deals. While today is sure to bring a feast of good deals, Everett Mall’s Tennyson feels confident that retailers will continue to offer decent prices.

“A lot of store are going to do sales throughout the season,” she said.

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