Merchants stepping up efforts to tempt hesitant holiday buyers

Associated Press

NEW YORK — The clock is ticking for retailers.

While the holiday season opened with a strong start the day after Thanksgiving, mall traffic has been down and sales lackluster since then. And with 10 days left until Christmas, merchants are realizing that it’s going to take a lot more than a few prayers to meet their sales expectations.

As such, many retailers, such as Sears, Roebuck &amp Co., are expected to ramp up sales efforts this weekend, trying to entice consumers to come to the malls with even bigger discounts.

Even online retailers, like Kmart Corp.’s, are trying to capitalize on the last-minute shopping rush by offering free express and priority delivery, to extend the season. For most e-commerce sites, the season ended on Dec. 11, the last day that consumers can order gifts via standard mail.

"You are going to see big-time promotions," said John Konarski, vice president of research at the International Council of Shopping Centers. "It is sort of a cat-and-mouse game. Consumers are holding out for the big deals, and retailers are wondering how much they should give in."

"Retailers need to rethink what to do next," agreed Michael Niemira, vice president of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi Ltd., who believes that this year’s holiday sales will turn out to be the weakest since 1996.

"Do you step up promotions and risk hurting profit margins? If not, can you really be sure it will get better?" he said. "But there is very little they can do at this point. Their situation is very much locked into the economics."

Retailers were already bracing for a difficult and delayed season due to a number of factors. Stock market volatility and a slowing economy have made consumers more cautious about buying discretionary items, or merchandise they don’t actually need.

Furthermore, a 31-day shopping season, which is two days longer than normal, may be encouraging last-minute buying of gifts.

However, retailers and analysts have been "shellshocked" over the deterioration of traffic and sales they’ve seen since Thanksgiving, according to Kurt Barnard, publisher of Barnard’s Retail Marketing Report, based in Upper Montclair, N.J.

According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, sales at specialty stores in the nation’s malls declined 9.8 percent for the week ended Dec. 10, compared to the same period last year.

Mall traffic, which has been down since Thanksgiving, further deteriorated this past weekend, according to RCT Systems, a research firm. The number of visitors declined 3.7 percent compared with the year-ago period.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Harvey Field seeks to reroute runway in floodplain, faces new pushback

Snohomish farmers and neighbors worry the project will be disruptive and worsen flooding. Ownership advised people to “read the science.”

IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amid lockout, Boeing, union firefighters return to bargaining table

The firefighters and the planemaker held limited negotiations this week: They plan to meet again Monday, but a lockout continues.

2 injured in Bothell Everett Highway crash

The highway was briefly reduced to one northbound lane while police investigated the three-car crash Saturday afternoon.

Heavy traffic northbound on 1-5 in Everett, Washington on August 31, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
On I-5 in Everett, traffic nightmare is reminder we’re ‘very vulnerable’

After a police shooting shut down the freeway, commutes turned into all-night affairs. It was just a hint of what could be in a widespread disaster.

Anthony Brock performs at Artisans PNW during the first day of the Fisherman’s Village Music Fest on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
At downtown Everett musical festival: ‘Be weird and dance with us’

In its first night, Fisherman’s Village brought together people who “might not normally be in the same room together” — with big acts still to come.

Two troopers place a photo of slain Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd outside District 7 Headquarters about twelve hours after Gadd was struck and killed on southbound I-5 about a mile from the headquarters on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Judge reduces bail for driver accused of killing Marysville trooper

After hearing from Raul Benitez Santana’s family, a judge decreased bail to $100,000. A deputy prosecutor said he was “very disappointed.”

Pet detective Jim Branson stops to poke through some fur that Raphael the dog found while searching on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Everett, Washington. Branson determined the fur in question was likely from a rabbit, and not a missing cat.(Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lost a pet? Pet detective James Branson and his dogs may be able to help

James Branson, founder of Three Retrievers Lost Pet Rescue, helps people in the Seattle area find their missing pets for $350.

Community Transit leaders, from left, Chief Communications Officer Geoff Patrick, Zero-Emissions Program Manager Jay Heim, PIO Monica Spain, Director of Maintenance Mike Swehla and CEO Ric Ilgenfritz stand in front of Community Transit’s hydrogen-powered bus on Monday, May 13, 2024, at the Community Transit Operations Base in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New hydrogen, electric buses get trial run in Snohomish County

As part of a zero-emission pilot program from Community Transit, the hydrogen bus will be the first in the Puget Sound area.

Two people fight on the side of I-5 neat Marysville. (Photo provided by WSDOT)
Video: Man charged at trooper, shouting ‘Who’s the boss?’ before shooting

The deadly shooting shut down northbound I-5 near Everett for hours. Neither the trooper nor the deceased had been identified as of Friday.

Two people fight on the side of I-5 neat Marysville. (Photo provided by WSDOT)
Road rage, fatal police shooting along I-5 blocks traffic near Everett

An attack on road workers preceded a report of shots fired Thursday, snarling freeway traffic in the region for hours.

The Port of Everett and Everett Marina on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Is Port of Everett’s proposed expansion a ‘stealth tax?’ Judge says no

A Snohomish resident lost a battle in court this week protesting what he believes is a misleading measure from the Port of Everett.

Pablo Garduno and the team at Barbacoa Judith’s churn out pit-roasted lamb tacos by the dozen at the Hidden Gems Weekend Market on Sunday, April 28, 2024, at Boom City in Tulalip, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Eating our way through Tulalip’s Hidden Gems weekend market

Don’t miss the pupusas, pit-roasted lamb tacos, elotes and even produce for your next meal.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.