Retailers try to attract last-minute shoppers on last week before Christmas
Retailers are trying to boost sales with longer-than-ever hours and more discounts as shoppers — who fell into a lull between Black Friday and Christmas Eve — get set to begin the last pre-holiday gift-buying weekend.
Macy's is trumpeting its first around-the-clock shopping event at most of its stores, from 7 a.m. Friday through the final minutes of Sunday. Ross Park Mall and South Hills Village will be open until 11 p.m. every night through Saturday, and until 10 Sunday.
Toys R Us will stay open for 88 hours, from 6 a.m. Friday through 10 p.m. Monday, and CEO Jerry Storch told CNBC this could be a record-breaking weekend, especially Saturday.
This season brought surprises.
“It started out very strong with Black Friday weekend, but it didn't seem to hold. It quieted down quite a bit,” retail expert Jeff Green said on Wednesday. Activity has picked up in the last week, he understands.
Possible factors: Malaise brought on by the 32-day span, the longest possible, from the day after Thanksgiving to Christmas. Economic worries and mild, wet weather that dampened enthusiasm for sweaters and coats.
Will Hall of Renfrew notices more last-minute shoppers this year. He was at Toys R Us in Cranberry on Wednesday morning, a quiet time, and filled a shopping cart with gifts for son Liam, 3.
“I'm glad I work the afternoon shift. The stores have been packed,” he said, adding he's finished all his shopping, except for a gift card for his uncle.
But only about a third of shoppers have completed their gift-buying, American Research Group said.
Ross Steinman, an associate psychology professor at Widener University, said some shoppers procrastinate because they're worried about finding the perfect gift.
Emotions are tied up in presents, he said, and people realize a too-small or too-big gift can alter a relationship. “What do they do instead? They avoid it,” he said, adding shoppers can benefit by waiting for the highest last-minute markdowns.
Jeff Herzog, an Army officer who teaches at Slippery Rock University, was at Toys R Us in search of Monster High girl dolls. “It was buy-one, get-half-off on the second,” he said, adding that his daughter, Gabby, will get one for Christmas and another later.
Retail traffic counter ShopperTrak said activity was up 15.1 percent last week through Saturday compared to the prior week, but down 4.4 percent from a year ago.
While this Saturday promises to be one of the five busiest shopping days of the season, the Chicago-based firm trimmed its retail sales forecast for November and December to a 2.5 percent increase from a year ago, down from 3.3 percent predicted in September. It blamed Superstorm Sandy, recent shootings at retail centers and economic woes as factors. ShopperTrak's technology works like a virtual turnstile to count visitors at retail centers.
“There's been more awareness around heavily discounted items,” said Chris Angell, director of global marketing. “People put off making the time to go to the stores, and the longer they wait, the heavier the pressure is on the merchant” to mark down prices. Still, people are visiting more stores for the first time in four years, he said.
Market research firm IBISWorld forecast that holiday spending will increase 3.7 percent from last year to total $69.2 billion, a lower rate than the 4.9 percent rise in 2011 because of consumers' fear of the effects of the approaching “fiscal cliff.”
The Chase Holiday Pulse shows last week's “Green Week” was the busiest seven-day period of the season for transaction volume. Online sales were up 10.7 percent year-over-year through the week as shoppers took advantage of free shipping.
In Cranberry, Mark Kreminski and three co-workers at software company TrueCommerce bought a Kindle, a coffee machine and a TV as gifts to raffle off.
“They were all on sale. There are good prices everywhere,” he said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Hospitals turn to technology to tear down language barriers with patients
- More companies embrace exchanges to curb health care costs
- Getting into executive pipeline may require schmoozing
- Range Resources to pay $4.15M fine, close old gas drilling impoundments
- MarksJarvis: Benefits, not just pay, hit the skids
- Investors urged to handle Indian stock fund with care
- Komando: It’s possible to keep your info safe online
- Chemical used for freshness leaves EU with little appetite for U.S. apples
- Pa. unemployment rate rises to 5.8 percent
- Families, friends become lenders of last resort for homebuyers
- Retailers begin efforts early to woo holiday shoppers