Retailers aren’t waiting for Black Friday in this economy. They can’t afford to, say retail executives and industry analysts. A just-released annual holiday forecast from the National Retail Federation found nearly three-quarters of people surveyed nationwide have only just begun holiday shopping.
Retailers aren’t waiting for Black Friday in this economy. They can’t afford to, say retail executives and industry analysts.
“I think you’re going to see a bloodbath out there (of promotions). There’s just a lot going on, and everyone’s trying to get that buck early. We just want to make sure we get our share,” said Kenny Hild, director of purchasing for Farm & Home Supply.
The Quincy-based retailer offered an “economic stimulus tax break weekend” last weekend by providing customers with point-of-purchase coupons equal to the cost of the sales tax in Illinois, Iowa and Missouri. The company has seven stores.
Hild said the company might repeat the promotion later in the shopping season.
A just-released annual holiday forecast from the National Retail Federation found nearly three-quarters of people surveyed nationwide have only just begun holiday shopping. In addition to waiting, the survey found “promotions and discounts” are the primary factors in purchasing decisions this year.
An earlier survey also found nearly 70 percent of shoppers plan to buy at least some gifts at discount stores.
“We’re on a whole different level here. They want to spend, but they want sales and coupons,” Pam Goodfellow, a senior analyst with BIGresearch, said during a retail-federation teleconference on the holiday outlook.
Consumers have turned cautious as a result of worrisome headlines about the stock market, unemployment and the financial industry, she said, but the survey also found most shoppers expected to spend at least the same as last year.
“Gas prices have declined dramatically the last six weeks, but consumers are still very skeptical about all of this and aren’t dramatically altering their spending,” Goodfellow said.
Riverton resident Donna Petitt said she relies on Social Security and a part-time job, so she has always set a holiday budget. But her budget will be tighter than usual this year as a result of the economy.
“I never have bought a whole lot, and I’ve always told everybody you might get something from me. It may not cost a lot, but at least you’ll get it. And I make a lot of stuff,” said Petitt, who added that she typically finishes her shopping before Thanksgiving.
The fact that Thanksgiving and the traditional start of the holiday season come a week later this year also has prompted retailers large and small to go well beyond price discounts and the traditional extended hours in efforts to lure shoppers.
Kate Hawkes, who owns the Trout Lily Cafe in Springfield, has taken a simple marketing approach. A homemade sign in the front window reads, “Stimulate Your Local Economy … buy a cup of coffee, treat yourself to a sandwich.”
“People seem to be reacting fearfully to what’s going in the country, although we’re not Detroit,” she said. “Things are not really bad here, but if people stop spending money, they’re gonna be, because that’s affecting the economy.
“I just made that up and stuck in the window. It’s like, ‘Hey, we’re here. Buy something,’” Hawkes said.
Shopping on a budget is hardly new to everyone.
“I always wait for things go on sale. We always try to watch what we’re spending,” said Amy Bruno while shopping with husband Derek at the Springfield Farm & Home Supply.
Bruno said she also makes gifts, “but you can’t really compete with the electronics stores.”
The National Retail Federation forecast a 2.2 percent increase in holiday sales this year, which would be the smallest increase since 2002. But federation spokeswoman Ellen Davis said during the holiday teleconference that procrastination could prove beneficial to retailers and shoppers alike.
“It is certain there is a lot of shopping left to do, and that’s encouraging,” Davis said. “It seems many consumers are waiting to see what retailers have up their sleeves for Black Friday weekend, and they’ve shown they are willing to wait outside at 4 a.m. for bargains.”
Tim Landis can be reached at (217) 788-1536 or firstname.lastname@example.org.