And so, the holiday shopping season officially begins today.
And this year, says Stevan Buxbaum of Buxbaum Group, a consulting firm and liquidator, sluggish traffic and lackluster sales will force retailers to woo shoppers with low prices.
“You could call this the Battle of the Signs,” Buxbaum says. “Instead of the windows being done up like something out of Miracle on 34th Street, they’ll be done up like a liquidation sale. The signage will be intense and extreme, with messages like ‘Buy 1 Get 1 Free’ and ‘Everything 25 percent Off!’ ”
For retailers, the focus on value is all the more imperative because of the 2008 retail calendar, with Thanksgiving having occurred late this year.
“That means,” Buxbaum says, “the all-important shopping period between Thanksgiving and Christmas — a time when many retailers count on raking in most of their money — is extremely short.”
Value-focused national retailers like T.J. Maxx, Marshall’s, Wal-Mart and Ross Dress for Less stand a better chance than some of their competitors this season, Buxbaum says. But a value-focused approach is less of an option for names like Abercrombie & Fitch, which has chosen to endure lower comparable store sales rather than risk the reputation of its upscale brand by going cheap.
Keeping inventories lean is a widespread strategy in such uncertain circumstances, but it also carries a risk for retailers, he says. “The best and most desirable merchandise sells out faster when you strip inventories to the bone. By mid-December, many stores are going to be fairly broken in terms of what merchandise they have available.”
So here we go: Expect the worst and hope for the best.
Buxbaum Group liquidates and appraises retail and wholesale inventories across North America.