CLEVELAND, Ohio — With the Christmas countdown ticking into single digits, retailers are extending their sales, deepening their discounts and keeping their stores open ’round the clock to pull still-reluctant shoppers into their stores for Super Saturday.
This year, the busiest Saturday before Christmas also happens to be the last day for free guaranteed-by-Christmas delivery for many retailers.
Record-shattering warmth throughout the Northeast — including the warmest temperatures in 120 years in Cleveland — have hit retailers especially hard, said Bill Kirk, chief executive and co-founder of Weather Trends International Inc., a business weather analytics company in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Sales are especially slow when compared to the epic cold and snow last November, which drove sales of cold winter merchandise up 50 percent to 500 percent at full margins, he said. Stores out West, which has been having more frequent cold snaps, are faring much better than the ones in our region this winter.
The big losers are Northeast winter merchandise firms and retailers whose stores are concentrated in the Northeast, but the winners are consumers who are saving 40 percent on heating bills, home improvement centers that specialize in outdoor projects, restaurants and movie theaters.
[Retailers] have EPIC RECORD WINTER INVENTORY, stacked to the rafters in distribution centers and back of stores.”
The International Council of Shopping Centers estimates that with an average of 44 percent of their holiday shopping left to do, 112.8 million shoppers will hit stores and shopping centers on Saturday to shop, dine, see a movie and/or attend a holiday event. And 92 percent of that total will be at the malls in person.
ICSC expects holiday shoppers to spend an average of $630 on gifts and holiday-related purchases, for a national total of $140 billion. Add food, drinks and personal services related to the holidays, and the average spending goes up to $737.
“We’ve seen an elongated season which has been very similar to 2014,” said Jesse Tron, consumer and retail spokesman for the ICSC. “Consumers still have a hefty portion of their shopping left to complete – on par with last year – but are significantly behind the 2013 rate of completion. We expect the last few days leading up to Christmas to be a flurry of shopping activity.”
Consumers are still buying Christmas gifts, “but in a colder/snowier season you also have to buy winter merchandise on top of that — jackets, gloves, ice melt, snow blowers, auto batteries, more hot cocoa, more soup, etc.,” Kirk said. “This year, it’s gifts only, as you don’t need much or consume as much of the winter seasonal items.
“Ask any retailer, and they have EPIC RECORD WINTER INVENTORY LEVELS in the Eastern half of the country, stacked to the rafters in their distribution centers and back of stores. No hope! We have one day of ‘cold’ weather this Saturday, but that can’t move three months of excess inventory.”
Here are some of the best last-minute promotions:
— Best Buy is offering free expedited two-day shipping on select products through 9:30 a.m. EST Tuesday, Dec. 22. Details at BestBuy.com/shipping — as well as free in-store pickup of online purchases through 6 p.m. Christmas Eve.
Best Buy is also offering free in-store Geek Squad setup (normally $39.99) with the purchase of select tech gifts, including Apple Watch, GoPro HERO4, and Microsoft Surface Pro 4. Customers who buy those items as gifts can give the recipients instructions on how to redeem their free one-on-one appointments with a Geek Squad Agent. Details at BestBuy.com/FreeSetUp
— Kohl’s is keeping its stores open 170 hours straight, from 7 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 17, through 6 p.m. Christmas Eve, “as an added convenience to holiday shoppers,” in addition to extra savings on Super Saturday, the retailer said in a written announcement.
— Toys ‘R’ Us is offering free shipping on Toysrus.com orders of $19 or more until 11:59 EST on Saturday, Dec. 19 — the last day to order for gifts to arrive by Christmas (details at Toysrus.com/freeshipping) — as well as free in-store pickup until 4 p.m. Christmas Eve.
Toys ‘R’ Us will be open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. from Saturday through Tuesday, Dec. 22. From 6 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 23, stores will stay open nonstop through 9 p.m. Christmas Eve.
— Macy’s is offering free guaranteed Christmas delivery on select purchases, excluding furniture and mattresses, through Dec. 22 to addresses in the continental U.S., as well as free in-store pickup of online purchases.
— Ikea is taking 50 percent off all soft toys on Saturday and Sunday, plus making a $1 donation to children’s education through UNICEF and Save the Children for every soft toy purchased. Ikea is also offering a $20 coupon for an in-store purchase of $150 or more.
Kirk, of WeatherTrends, said: “Retailers have so much excess inventory they will be giving away until mid-Spring… furthering the pain of three quarters in a row of all the wrong weather — record warm Fall, Winter, and then cold Spring.”
“We don’t think we get the weather back in sync with retailers’ selling seasons until Summer next year, which will be hot/dry in the North with a positively epic 2016 hurricane season in the south.”
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