With the clock running out, holiday hustlers on both sides of the checkout counter are in a frenzy as shoppers hunt for blowout bargains and merchants slash prices to the bone Monday to salvage a lackluster season.
Retailers hoping for a Santa Claus rally vowed to keep their doors open later than ever to draw last-minute Christmas Eve gift buyers with mind-boggling discounts of up to 80%.
Felicia Hunter, 35, of the Bronx was among the throng hitting stores yesterday, unable to resist dirt-cheap deals of the eleventh-hour season swan song.
“Everything’s on sale at deep discounts. We wouldn’t be here if they weren’t,” said Hunter, 35, a child care worker picking up half-price clothes in the Manhattan Mall.
With sales forecasts showing only a 1.8% to 4% bump up from last year, merchants desperate to move merchandise extended hours and offered fire-sale prices.
Staying open around the clock since Friday, Macy’s stores planned to keep cash registers ringing until 6 this evening, marking down goods 20-50%. JCPenney’s also planned to stay open until 6 p.m., cutting prices on boots by up to 60%.
Waitress Diana Rivera, 44, of the Bronx was loving the red tag sales, buying cologne and perfume at Macy’s and Victoria’s Secret.
“It was good on the pocket,” said Rivera, her arms full of shopping bags.
Some stores like J&R Music and Computer World planned to highlight some of the season’s hottest gifts today, offering 7-megapixel Olympus digital cameras for half the $300 list price.
“We’ve seen what the people are looking for – digital cameras, GPS devices and TVs,” said J&R spokesman Abe Brown. “Now we know to highlight the best products.”
Research shows there still could be a lot of shoppers holding out until the last second. Just 71% had finished all their shopping, compared with a typical 85% by the weekend before Christmas, said Britt Beemer of America’s Research Group.
But overall, traditional store shopping has been soft this season, likely a testament to competition from online sales, which are up 19% over last year. Consumers have spent about $25 billion on Internet gifts, according to the comScore tracking service.
Kenyon Daniel, manager at the Signature clothing store on East Fordham Road in the Bronx, said he’s noticed a falloff in holiday business over the past few years.
“It’s not like it used to be. It’s very disappointing,” said Daniel, who has marked down jeans, jackets and shirts by 50%. “Everything in retail has been in decline the last few years.”
Some items, like Nintendo’s Wii, were so hot that retailers could actually have increased prices and still moved them.
“They can’t make them fast enough,” said Toys “R” Us spokeswoman Kathleen Waugh. “They sell out the minute they come in, and people continue to camp out for them.”
The Times Square Toys “R” Us did record business over the weekend. Hannah Montana, Guitar Hero 3, T.M.X. Friends and Smart Cycle were among the big sellers, Waugh said.
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