Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Christmas Sales Should Turn out Good, but Not Easy

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Christmas Sales Should Turn out Good, but Not Easy

Article excerpt

Like pollsters trying to predict an election winner or a bookie setting odds on the Super Bowl, just about everyone connected with the retail business seems to have a forecast for the Christmas shopping season.

Depending on whom you ask, it'll be a good season because consumers are more relaxed about the economy, or a downer because they're beset by financial concerns.

Chances are the season, which has its traditional start today, will turn out OK for many retailers, better than it appeared a few months ago.

But sales won't come easy _ the bulk of business is expected in the last 10 days of the season _ and retailers will again resort to low prices, extra services and a few gimmicks to get people into their stores.

From the consumer point of view this should be a great season, with stores practically doing back-flips as they compete for holiday business.

Kmart stores were open Thanksgiving for people who wanted to work off their turkey dinner by pushing shopping carts. Many retailers were also opening earlier than usual today.

Many department stores are again using plush toys as a bonus for shoppers spending a specific amount. Macy's eastern stores are selling Lamb Chop toys modeled after the Shari Lewis puppet for $13 to customers who spend $35. A moose is the mascot in Macy's western stores, and Dayton Hudson's department stores have brought back Santa Bear for a ninth year.

Other stores are providing special services. Bloomingdale's in New York will gift wrap customers' purchases while they continue to shop, and has added customer service people fluent in a number of languages to help the store's many foreign shoppers.

The Sharper Image decided to go to its customers rather than wait for all of them to show up. The gadget retailer has several Manhattan stores, but it's taken up space in Bloomingdale's _ and will remain there after Christmas _ to take advantage of the heavy and well-heeled shopper traffic.

Most retailers are going to have what consumers really want _ discounts all season long. The recession made markdowns a way of life for stores, and the price cuts are built into their holiday budgets. …

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