Retailers, consumers and prices
Black Friday bargain hunting is a marathon, requiring a shopper to be alert and aggressive to outmaneuver rivals for that last $200 LCD TV at Target. But with so many retailers opening their doors at midnight, why bother going to sleep? Even if you shopped at Kohl’s, which opened at 3 am or J.C. Penney, at 4 am, you were in for very short night for most.
So bleary-eyed shoppers turned out in drove at U.S. malls on Friday, with lines at coffee shops among the longest.
Mall operator Macerich said on Friday that the Starbucks at its Tysons Corner Center in suburban Washington had lines 30 people deep at 11 a.m. At the Newport Center mall in Jersey City, exhausted shoppers could be seen forming a line of 20 to get much needed java.
After all, no one wants to be caught unawares when cashmere sweaters for 50 percent off are at stake.
The department store operator also said same-store sales would improve during 2010 — it expects same-store sales to be flat in the first quarter and up in the “low-single digits” for the full fiscal year.
Check out retailers’ post-holiday push.
Shop Talk remembers when after-Christmas sales were advertised in the newspaper on Christmas Day itself. Times have changed a bit. Walmart is already letting you know what deals will be available, including ones that could lead you to spend more at its stores.
J.C. Penney, meanwhile, said it would open its doors at 5 a.m. on the day after Christmas, the earliest start ever. While online shoppers get 99-cent per item shipping, J.C. Penney is still going a little old school. Those who get its Christmas Day newspaper circular will get good ol’ coupons to use in stores.
The going continued to be tough in November for U.S. retailers. Most reported disappointing sales at their stores open for at least a year in a month that kicked off the decisive holiday season.
J.C. Penney reported that same store sales fell 5.9 percent last month compared to a year earlier. But more worryingly, J.C. Penney’s online sales fell 7.7 percent in November even as many rivals have reported internet sales that helped mitigate weakness in their stores.
Companies that cater to consumers are always chasing after the latest consumer technology trend (anyone remember Second Life?), and this holiday season that means following them into the world of social media.
Companies ranging from Wal-Mart and Panda Express to J.C. Penney and Target are experimenting with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Flickr. Some are tweeting special coupons or limited-time deals, while others are doling out fashion advice or providing play-by-plays from product launch parties on Facebook. M.A.C. said it is using its Facebook page to feature artists, color collections, and what is happening backstage at fashion shows.
Penney reported a net loss of $1 million, or nil per share, compared with a year-earlier profit of $117 million, or 52 cents per share. Analysts on average expected a loss of 1 cent per share, according to Reuters Estimates.
Gary Severson, Wal-Mart U.S.’s senior vice president of home entertainment, told Reuters he thought the deal represented a “screaming value.”
Parents plan to spend less money on back-to-school gear for their children this year in another worrisome sign for retailers heading into what is normally their second biggest selling period behind Christmas.
The average family with children in kindergarten through 12th grade is expected to spend $548.72 on back-to-school merchandise this year, down 7.7 percent from 2008, according to the National Retail Federation.
Check out the ten largest U.S. retailers.
The National Retail Federation’s STORES magazine is out with its annual ranking of the top 100 retailers.
The list shows that U.S. consumers have been focused on bargains and basic necessities, such as food and medicine. Wal-Mart tops the lineup, followed by Kroger and Costco. Home Depot fell from No. 2 in 2007 to the fourth spot in 2008 as many shoppers decided to cut back on costly home-improvement projects.