News Column

Retailers Make Final Push With End-of-Year Discounts

December 27, 2013

By Natalie DiBlasio, @ndiblasio, USA TODAY

Stores are offering big discounts to end the holiday season. (photo: Associated Press)
Stores are offering big discounts to end the holiday season. (photo: Associated Press)

The day after Christmas is for more than returning gifts this year. Retailers are ratcheting up the sales in an attempt to lure customers and make up for a slow shopping season.

Four big 75% off signs covered the windows of Old Navy. More 75% off signs at H&M and Forever 21. 50% off Armani Exchange and Abercrombie and Fitch. 60% off at Gap.

There was hardly a spot in Tysons Corner Center, a mall in Virginia, where you could stand without seeing a sale sign.

Sales growth this holiday season is likely to be the weakest since 2009: 3.2%, says Chris Christopher, director of consumer economics at IHS Global Insight. December numbers still aren't in but, Christopher says, "They're not looking good."

The state of the economy held consumers back before Christmas, and now retailers are trying to compensate.

"The real economy spoke this holiday season," says Brian Sozzi, CEO of Belus Capital Advisors, a stock market research firm. "Consumers are not financially strong enough to go out there and spend willy-nilly. ... If the customer didn't need to shop, they didn't go out and shop."

But discounts of 70% and 80% may be high enough to interest even the most frugal shoppers.

Rachel Licklider, 24, Centreville, Va., browsed racks at Ann Taylor Loft. The store advertised 50% off the entire purchase. "A good deal," Licklider says. She'd collected coupons for after-Christmas sales and had a long list of stores to visit. Crazy traffic didn't stand in her way. "Macy's, Nordstrom's, Dick's," she says, ticking off her list. "I am just looking around for clothes for myself."

ShopperTrak, which analyzes retail shopping trends, predicted that post-Christmas markdowns would drive store traffic on the day after Christmas and Saturday.

"Many people who have the day after Christmas off of work will be out shopping for end-of-season deals," said ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin. Michelle Polito, 48, of Arlington, Va., shopped with her husband, Bobby, 47, at Macy's. Bobby's arms were full of clothing as Michelle held up a pair of pants.

"We are actually Christmas shopping, because we haven't celebrated yet," Michelle Polito says. Their daughter and son-in-law dance with the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago and won't arrive until Monday. "We waited to shop because we thought it would be less stressful and more sales." Polito had Macy's coupons. "We are going to use a $25 off a $100 purchase coupon. That plus the markdowns? It's a good deal."

Nichole Fox, 25, and Stephanie Snow, 34, of Lakeridge, Va., were disappointed in Target's sale. "It was mostly just Christmas stuff," Snow says. The two already hit Kohl's and Gap and now were digging through piles of clothes at Old Navy. "The sales actually aren't great," Snow says, "but it got us in the door."

Original headline: Stores burst with end-of-year discounts


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