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Tuesday's forecast calls for sales, as December's end becomes more important to retailers

Tuesday's forecast calls for sales, as December's end becomes more important to retailers

U.S. retailers were ushering in the post-Christmas shopping season by slashing prices even more on holiday items and stocking up on fresh new merchandise.
With the 2006 pre-Christmas season turning out to be challenging, the nation's merchants are hoping that shoppers, armed with gift cards, will spend freely, snapping up discounted items as well as picking up full-priced merchandise, to boost business in December and in the fourth-quarter.
Federated Department Stores Inc.'s Macy's was set to open its doors at 7 a.m. , offering discounts ranging from 50 percent to 75 percent. Toys "R" Us Inc. is offering 50 percent discounts on selected toys. The toy seller is also showcasing hot toys from 2007 in its stores.
Merchants "are going to use all 31 days in December," said Marshal Cohen, chief analyst at NPD Group Inc., a market research company in Port Washington, New York.
The post-Christmas season has become more important with the increasing popularity of gift cards. Gift card sales are only recorded on retailers' balance sheet when cards are redeemed.
According to BigResearch, which conducted a poll for the National Retail Federation, consumers are expected to spend a total of $24.81 billion (euro18.81 billion) on gift cards, this holiday season, up from $18.48 billion (euro14.01 billion) in the year-ago period.
Last year, the week ended Saturday Dec. 31, accounted for 15.6 percent of holiday sales, compared with 10.3 percent in the corresponding period in 2004.
In fact, according to a poll of 1,200 shoppers conducted by Kurt Salmon Associates from Nov. 30 to Dec. 5, half of respondents said they plan to take advantage of the post-holiday sales.