Justine Griffin/Tampa Bay Times – Waiting until the eleventh hour this weekend to wrap up holiday shopping? You’re not alone. And this year, procrastination is paying off for some.
“Super Saturday,” or the last Saturday before Christmas, is expected to eclipse Black Friday and become the busiest shopping weekend of the year, retail analysts say. That’s because almost everybody still has some shopping to do, according to a consumer survey by the National Retail Federation, which showed that only 10 percent of American shoppers said they were done buying gifts for the season this week.
“As Black Friday became more muddled and spread out last year, we saw more people wait until the last week before Christmas to shop,” said Jeff Green, a retail analyst in Phoenix. He anticipates the same trend will play out this year.
“It will be more important to retailers than Black Friday that’s for sure. This is the time of year where people will head to the stores because it’s cutting it too close to ship something and get it on time,” Green said.
Retailers, eager to capitalize on the throng of bustling buyers, are responding with longer hours and some heavy discounts.
Kohl’s department stores will be open for more than 170 hours straight — from 7 a.m. on Thursday to 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Special promotions, from $14.99 Star Wars T-shirts to $39.99 Sony Extra Bass headphones, will be going on throughoutSaturday.
Toys “R” Us stores will be open late too, from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily, Saturday through Tuesday. The children’s retailer is offering free shipping on online orders of $19 or more until 11:59 p.m. on Saturday and free store pickup until 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
At Best Buy, all purchases made by 10:30 a.m. Dec. 22 will get expedited two-day shipping so packages arrive by Christmas.
One big motivation for the push is that brick-and-mortar stores are running out of time to make up on less-than-stellar sales so far.
“Foot traffic has been down so far this holiday season, especially over Black Friday,” said Steve Kirn, executive director of the David F. Miller Retailing Education and Research Center at the University of Florida. “With Black Friday being so spread out, both over more days and online, business has been mediocre at best.”
Kirn said that shoppers can expect another wave of discounts at stores this weekend, as retailers make a last ditch effort to get rid of their holiday inventory before Christmas. Warm weather across the nation has dampened winter apparel and sporting goods sales, which could lead to better bargains. But health and beauty merchandise, jewelry and furniture are expected to be the best sellers of the season, according to data from the International Council of Shopping Centers.
“Super Saturday has always been a big shopping weekend,” but more people will actually be buying stuff this weekend than buying just the doorbuster deals like on Black Friday, Kirn said. “It’s easy to drive people into stores with sales when they’re giving stuff away almost. But it’s much harder to make money during it.”
The NRF predicts that retail sales during the months of November and December will increase by a modest 3.7 percent this year, to $630.5 billion spent nationwide. An improving housing market, new job growth and low gas prices have contributed to the small increase in sales predictions.
But shoppers are still uncertain about the future and are buying based on discounts. The recent hike in interest rates won’t help consumer confidence.
“There is a certain element to waiting until the last minute that tends to pay off,” Green said. “No matter how the shopping season evolves. It will probably be like this next year, too.”