Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Consumers shrug in the face of lean inventory

November 10, 2009

bored1Lean inventory may be the secret weapon that retailers are depending on to survive the holiday season with earnings intact.

But consumers don’t exactly seem to be quaking in their boots at the prospects of finding empty racks this Christmas season.

According to the ICSC, with 18 days until Black Friday and 46 shopping days until Christmas, the consumer appears “unfazed” by reports of retailers running low on inventory.

The ICSC and Goldman Sachs’ 2009 Holiday Spending Survey found that 81 percent of consumers said lean inventories are not motivating them to shop earlier than in past seasons.

One culprit behind the nonchalance?  Gift cards.

According to the survey, 48 percent of holiday shoppers said that if they can not find the gift item they are looking for, they will buy a gift card.

“It is surprising that consumers are not willing to shop early for holiday gifts to get the best selection,” said Michael Niemira, ICSC’s chief economist.  “Bargains seemingly may matter more than selection for the consumer, which is why more consumers this year than in any recent time plan to shop on the day after Thanksgiving (16%) —which now should be dubbed Bargain Friday.”

(Photo: Reuters)


I’ve seen similar stories the past couple of days and I guess I’m not surprised that consumers aren’t afraid of “missing out” on products. I think they’re more worried about making their budgets stretch all the way through the holidays than they are about finding the perfect gift. Gift cards will help, especially since they can often be used online – and sent far away without much expense.

I’ve noticed an increase in the number of free shipping offers and discount coupons for online retailers across the board. When you add those benefits to the cash back you get from some reward sites like and, it adds up – and these days every little bit counts!


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