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U.S. stores count on post-Christmas shopping to meet sales goals

U.S. stores count on post-Christmas shopping to meet sales goals

America's retailers ushered in the post-Christmas shopping season on Tuesday by slashing prices even more on holiday items and stocking up on full-price merchandise.
With the 2006 pre-Christmas season falling short of sales expectations for many merchants, the retail industry hoped that shoppers, armed with gift cards, would spend freely in the weeks ahead on discounted items as well as fresh merchandise. That will help boost business in December and in the fourth-quarter.
The big exceptions were luxury stores and the online businesses, both of which did better than expected this holiday season. Meanwhile, deep discounting of flat-panel TVs and other gadgets led to a buying surge, as well as a profit blow to Best Buy Co. and Circuit City Stores Inc.
Federated Department Stores Inc.'s Macy's opened its doors at 7 a.m. Tuesday and offered discounts ranging from 50 percent to 75 percent. Toys "R" Us Inc. offered 50 percent discounts on selected toys. The toy seller also was featuring hot toys from 2007 in its stores.
Merchants "are going to use all 31 days in December" and the month of January, said Marshal Cohen, chief analyst at NPD Group Inc., a market research company in Port Washington, New York.
Shoppers appeared to be focusing on discounted holiday items on Tuesday. Stores aim to clear out holiday leftovers soon to make room for the fresh merchandise _ including new winter items as well as early spring fashions.
After a stronger-than-expected turnout on the day after Thanksgiving (Nov. 23), stores struggled through the first two weeks of December as consumers returned to malls and stores at a disappointing pace. Stores did get a late-buying surge in the final days of the pre-Christmas season, but it was not strong enough to meet holiday sales goals.
A big negative factor this season was mild temperatures throughout most of the U.S., which depressed sales of winter items like coats and snow boots.
Based on data released late Sunday by ShopperTrak RCT Corp., sales for both Friday and Saturday generated a combined $16.2 billion (euro12.3 billion), with Saturday's business totaling $8.72 billion (euro6.61 billion). But Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak, said he had expected the finale to be stronger; because it was not, stores need a good post-Christmas season to meet ShopperTrak's 5 percent holiday forecast.
Online spending from Nov. 1 through Wednesday reached $21.68 billion (euro16.43 billion), a 26 percent increase compared with 2005, according to comScore Networks, an Internet research company. The results exclude travel, auctions and corporate purchases. That was better than the 24 percent rise in online spending that ComScore had expected.
Amazon.com reported Tuesday that the season finished as its "best ever," with the busiest day being Dec. 11. Among the best-selling items were Apple's MacBook 13.3 inch (34 centimeters) Notebook PC and books like "On a Diet: The Owner's Manual for Waist Management" by Mehmet C. Oz and Michael F. Roizen.
Yahoo! Shopping reported Tuesday that its holiday season beat internal forecasts. It said that the number of shoppers to the site rose 34 percent in December compared to the year-earlier period. Traffic to merchants rose 30 percent in the past month, compared to the year-earlier period.
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) last year.
In 2005, 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.


Updated : 2021-10-22 12:23 GMT+08:00