NEW YORK —
Did stores shoot themselves in the foot?
Major retailers like Target and Macy’s offered holiday discounts as early as November and opened stores on Thanksgiving Day. It was an effort to attract shoppers before Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that traditionally kicks off the holiday shopping season.
Those tactics drew bigger crowds, but failed to motivate Americans to spend.
A record 141 million people are expected to shop in stores and online over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend that ends Sunday, up from last year’s 137 million, according to the results of a survey of nearly 4,500 shoppers conducted for The National Retail Federation.
But total spending is expected to fall for the first time ever since the trade group began tracking it in 2006, according to the survey that was released on Sunday. Over the four days, spending fell an estimated 2.9 percent to $57.4 billion.
The survey underscores the challenges stores have faced since the recession began in late 2007. Retailers had to offer deeper discounts to get people to shop during the downturn, but Americans still expect those “70 percent off” signs now during the recovery.
And stores may have only exacerbated that expectation this year. By offering bargains earlier in the season, it seems they’ve created a vicious cycle in which they’ll need to constantly offer bigger sales. Shoppers who took advantage of “holiday” deals before Thanksgiving may have deal fatigue and are cautious about buying anything else unless it’s heavily discounted.
“The economy spoke loud and clear over the past few days,” said Brian Sozzi, CEO and chief equities strategist at Belus Capital Advisors. “We are going to see an increase in markdowns.”
Matthew Shay, president and CEO of The National Retail Federation, said that the survey results only represent one weekend in what is typically the biggest shopping period of the year. The combined months of November and December can account for up to 40 percent of retailers’ revenue
Overall, Shay said the trade group still expects sales for the combined two months to increase 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion. That’s a higher pace than the 3.5 percent pace in the previous year.
But to achieve that growth, retailers will likely have to offer big sales events. In a stronger economy, people who shopped early would continue to shop throughout the season. But that’s not the case in this tough economic climate.
“It’s pretty clear that in the current environment, customers expect promotions,” Shay said. “Absent promotions, they’re not really spending.”
Take Tuesday Trasvina, 37, said she’s been bombarded with holiday discounts since early November. Trasvina, a marketing coordinator, plans to spend $500 on holiday gifts, about a quarter of what she spent last year.
“They’ve been stretching out this Black Friday thing so long,” said Trasvina, who was shopping with her husband on Friday at a Target store in Portland, Ore. “I just think the over-commercialization of the holiday has gotten to us.”
At least a dozen major retailers — most of them for the first time — opened on Thanksgiving instead of on Black Friday, which is typically the biggest shopping day of the year. Wal-Mart, Toys R Us and other retailers said on Friday that Thanksgiving crowds were strong.
But the early start appeared to pull sales forward. Black Friday sales fell 13.2 percent from the previous year, according to Chicago-based technology firm ShopperTrak. But combined spending over Thanksgiving and Black Friday rose 2.3 percent to $9.74 billion compared with a year ago.
A Kmart store in New York City that opened at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving and stayed open for 41 hour straight was packed on the holiday. Clothing was marked down anywhere from 30 percent to 50 percent.
Adriana Tavaraz, 51, headed there at about 4 p.m. and spent $105 on ornaments, Santa hats and other holiday decor. She saved about 50 percent.
But it’s not likely Tavaraz will head out to stores too many more times this holiday season. Money is tight this year because of rising costs for food and rent, and Tavaraz already spent much of her $200 holiday budget.
“Nowadays, you have to think about what you spend,” she said. “You have to think about tomorrow.”
Sara Sell in Portland, Ore., contributed to this report.
NEW YORK —
Did stores shoot themselves in the foot?
- Daily Updates
- In Other News, March 9
Jet may have turned; suspicious passengers checked
International intelligence agencies joined the investigation Sunday into two passengers who boarded the missing Boeing 777 jetliner with stolen passports, as Malaysian authorities said radar images showed the plane may have turned back before vanishing.
Putin defends separatist drive in Crimea as legal
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday defended the separatist drive in the disputed Crimean Peninsula as in keeping with international law, but Ukraine’s prime minister vowed not to relinquish “a single centimeter” of his country’s territory.
Stigma hinders efforts to combat leprosy in India
At first, Ashok Yadav ignored the patches of pink skin on his arm. But when pale sores erupted on his body and he lost sensation in his fingertips, a doctor issued the devastating diagnosis: Yadav had leprosy.
Pistorius trial: Stunning testimony in 1st week
The testimony in the first week of Oscar Pistorius’ murder trial was jaw dropping at times, and more riveting evidence is expected as the prosecution seeks to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the double-amputee athlete intentionally shot dead his girlfriend.
Gettysburg wax museum selling historical figures
A life-sized animatronic Abe Lincoln is among the historical figures and tableau scenes from a Gettysburg wax museum set to hit the auction block just months after the town celebrated the 150th anniversary of his “Gettysburg Address.”
Counties undermine prison efforts
California counties are confounding the state’s court-ordered efforts to sharply reduce its inmate population by sending state prisons far more convicts than anticipated, including a record number of people with second felony convictions.
Boy buried by avalanche tried to bite his way out
An 8-year-old western Montana boy who spent about an hour buried in the snow after a deadly avalanche roared into his backyard says he tried to “lick and bite” his way out before becoming tired and falling asleep.
Set clocks ahead for daylight saving time
A sure sign that spring is on the horizon: It’s time to set the clocks forward for daylight saving time.
For Obama, a last stab at improving ties with Hill
In late December, President Barack Obama’s new legislative affairs team sent him more than a dozen recommendations for ways to improve his strained relations with Capitol Hill. The president responded with a few ideas of his own, including a request for more social events with lawmakers at the White House.
- More Daily Updates Headlines