In the spirit of the “holly-daze,” Professor Eugene Fram, RIT’s in-house retail expert, offers some spirited advice for shoppers who have budgets in mind and want some peace of mind:
It’s the season for the “Cat & Mouse Retail Olympics”—the time in the holiday season when many consumers have to decide whether to buy now at regular/sale retail prices or hope for lower prices after Christmas.
The way the season is developing, it appears to be a waiting game, and at best, I think retail is in for a tepid Christmas season. Consumers are spending less because of high gas and food prices. In order to fit their budgetary concerns, people are looking for bargain items and shopping at mass retailers like Target, Wal-Mart and Kohl’s.
The lackluster week that followed Black Friday, both online and offline, is a clear indication of the large procrastinating consumer base. The effects of our two-level society are still evident in retailing results. Luxury stores like Neiman Marcus, Saks and Nordstrom continue to do well in November’s comparable store sales, while Wal-Mart and JC Penney struggle for modest percentage gains.
Even teens seem to be hoarding cash; Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle Outfitters are also struggling to show even modest gains.
So what’s hot this year? There are no must-have-gifts in the marketplace that people are standing in line for, nothing equivalent to the iPods craze during the 2006 season. Perhaps Apple’s large price reduction after Christmas is making some consumers wary of shopping early for electronic products?
Those who are computer literate will be surfing the Web for the best buys, placing orders online or comparing the price differences between local stores and online vendors.
If you’re scrambling for some presents that don’t cost a lot but capture the spirit of the season, try these ideas:
â€¢ Watch the racks. If they seem unusually full during the next few weeks, make your purchases from them as close to Christmas as you can.
â€¢ Look for some out of season (spring and summer items) that may be on sale in smaller specialty stores.
â€¢ If you must give a gift and are a totally frustrated shopper, consider a gift card. Let the recipient assume the burden!
â€¢ Watch for ads by locally owned stores toward the end of the season. Most likely the offerings are overstocked merchandise that is being cleared.
â€¢ If you are buying a present for yourself, wait until January. Savings are likely to be substantial in 2008.
Fram is the Warren J. McClure Research Professor of Marketing in RIT’s E. Philip Saunders College of Business. Hear more of what he has to say about the retail holiday season on Studio 86: Holiday Shopping Outlook.
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