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Posted on Mon. Dec. 23, 2013 - 12:17 am EDT

Retail stores boost efforts to draw shoppers

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Best time to buy

BIG-NAME TVS AND ELECTRONICS: If you’re looking for top-brand TVs or TVs with extra features, the best time to buy is February or March, says Lindsay Sakraida, features director at DealNews.com, which tracks online prices and sales.

WINTER WEAR: If you hold out, you will see better discounts beginning immediately after Christmas. That’s because retailers have to clear out winter merchandise quickly to get ready for the influx of spring clothes.

FURNITURE: Similar to electronics, home furniture is seasonal, too. But furniture makers release new models in February, so stores need to make room in advance. Thus January is an excellent time to get good discounts, Sakraida says.

FITNESS GEAR: The better deals are prompted in part by Americans trying to stick to New Year’s resolutions in January to get in shape and lose weight. Makers of fitness equipment and accessories slash prices to drive sales.

Source: Associated Press

Jordon Riggens says he didn’t fall for it.

Wal-Mart had a 32-inch flat-screen TV for $98 on Thanksgiving, so his mother hoped to snag one.

“No, she didn’t get it,” Riggens said. “I told her they only have so many. I’m not showing up to try to fight through all of those people just to come up empty.”

Many consumers, like Riggens, are extremely budget-conscious. In fact, they’ve been that way all season. Despite an improving economy, most workers are not seeing meaningful wage increases. And those who can splurge say the brash commercialism around the holidays – including stores deciding to open on Thanksgiving – is a turnoff.

There aren’t reliable figures on how many people plan to shop during the holidays. But early data point to a shift in holiday spending.

The National Retail Federation estimates that sales during the official start of the season – the four-day weekend that began Thanksgiving Day – dropped 2.9 percent from last year to $57.4 billion. That would mark the first decline in the seven years during which the trade group has tracked spending.

Those estimates may help explain why this past weekend, Kohl’s and Toys R Us began opening around the clock through Christmas Eve at Fort Wayne-area locations. Macy’s did the same in select locations, but not in Indiana.

Data tracker ShopperTrak showed that sales rose 2 percent to $176.7 billion from Nov. 1 through last Sunday. It represents a slower pace than had been hoped for, especially with two days left now in the season.

Such figures don’t shock retail consultant Jennifer Cherry, who says Black Friday is getting a little gray. She said that in the past few years, retailers have conditioned consumers to look for deals on Thanksgiving.

“You can’t blame them for not showing up on Black Friday,” said Cherry, senior vice president of Marx Lane Co., a marketing and public relations firm in Farmington Hills, Mich. “Black Friday traffic is becoming fragmented, and retailers aren’t seeing as much foot traffic in some cases.”

Besides Turkey Day, there are even Wacky Wednesday deals, Cherry said.

“Shoppers are finding what they want and not coming back on Black Friday,” she said. “The thing is that every retailer wants to be the first with sales and promotions.”

Cherry said the effects of the recent recession continue to curb the enthusiasm of some consumers who used to allow impulse buys to rule them.

“They’re making their lists and sticking to them,” she said.

The Retail Federation’s latest holiday survey revealed that half of the remaining holiday shoppers plan to shop online – the most in the survey’s 11-year history.

That doesn’t bode well for brick-and-mortar stores – even those with websites – that rely on sales associates to increase sales.

They couldn’t crack Riggens, anyway.

“I’m shopping for my Mom, my daughter and nephew – that’s it,” said Riggens, who was recently discharged from the Navy and will soon start classes at IPFW. “I might spend $300. Any adults expecting something from me better forget it. Christmas is for the kids.”

Jill Ueber is owner of Belyst, a women’s clothing boutique in Covington Plaza. She said last-minute shopping can work in favor of local merchants.

“A lot of the customers we get around this time of year are men,” Ueber said. “Some men need more help getting things, and I think they like being in a smaller place to shop. I think they feel they get a more specialized level of service.”

pwyche@jg.net

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

 


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