Stores stocking less merchandise this holiday season
Gary Dinges / Austin American-Statesman
This isn’t your year, procrastinators.
As Black Friday ushers in the holiday shopping season, industry analysts say worried retailers expecting flat sales are stocking fewer items, which means in-demand gifts could vanish from shelves well before Dec. 25.
“I’d try to be done by the first week of December,” said Jeff Green, president and CEO of Jeff Green Partners, a retail consulting firm. “If stores start to run out of the must-have products, we could see prices rise as Christmas approaches. That would be a first.”
“You might want to start thinking about what you want,” said Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities. “If you wait too long, you might not find it.”
The smaller stocks mean shoppers who traditionally wait for after-Christmas sales may be out of luck this year.
“There’s not going to be a lot left over,” Green said.
Items first to go, according to Vitner, will be clothing, sporting goods and tablets, especially iPads.
Most forecasts show year-to-year sales for the majority of merchants will be flat or show modest gains, thanks in large part to concerns about the nation’s ailing economy.
“We’re going to see continued restraint from consumers,” said Dan O’Malley, CEO of PerkStreet Financial, a company that offers debit card rewards. “They’re not in the mood to go into debt.
“That’s bad news for retailers. For consumers, that’s great.”
Anxious to see any sort of bump in sales, many stores rolled out holiday items earlier than ever, Green said. That, too, will leave folks who traditionally wait till the last minute with fewer options.
“Black Friday really is becoming a season, not a day,” he said. “Walmart started with gifts and décor in mid-September, which prompted a lot of other retailers to get started earlier than expected.”
Walmart, Old Navy and Toys R Us are among the merchants that will open tonight, hoping to get first crack at hesitant shoppers’ limited dollars.
Others are opening earlier than ever on Black Friday.
Kohl’s, Macy’s and Target will start offering holiday specials at midnight.
“This year, they’ve really expanded their hours more than in the past,” said Kristen Yen, director of marketing and business development for Barton Creek Square mall.
At Barton Creek Square, eight shops will open at midnight, Yen said, including Express. The mall officially opens its doors at 4 a.m. That’s when the rest of the stores will come online. They’ll welcome customers until 10 p.m.
“You have two sets of shoppers,” Yen said. “One peak is at 10 or 11 in the morning, there’s a bit of a lull, then things tend to pick back up around 4 in the afternoon.”
New this year, she said, is a smartphone app — available for free for iPhones and Android devices — that guides consumers to deals at malls nationwide that are operated by Simon Properties, including Barton Creek Square, Lakeline Mall and the Domain in Central Texas. Search for “Simon Malls” in the app store.
“It gives you a chance to look at the sales and map out your game plan before you get out here,” Yen said.