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Shoppers carry their purchases from the Toys R Us store in New York's Times Square. - 

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Scott Jagow: By my rough calculations, there are 11,000 shopping minutes until Christmas. I say minutes because retailers are gonna need every single one of them. Sales haven't been so good in December. And things got worse this past weekend with a big snowstorm keeping people at home. Amy Scott has more from New York.


Amy Scott: In the first 20 days of the holiday shopping season, sales at specialty apparel chains like Gap and Aeropostale grew by just half a percent. That's according to retail data service SpendingPulse.

Analyst John Morris with Wachovia says concerns about the economy are keeping shoppers away. And there aren't as many must-have items -- in toys, electronics, or fashion.

John Morris: So I don't think the customer is as motivated to buy necessarily when it comes to apparel.

Many shoppers may just be biding their time for better discounts. And more people are buying gift cards, which don't count as sales until they're redeemed. Morris says gift cards will account for nearly 20 percent of a typical retailer's holiday sales this year.

Meanwhile, retailers are pulling out all the stops to get people in the door. Starting Friday, Macy's in the New York area will open around the clock through Christmas Eve. Some K-Marts will be pulling all-nighters. Analysts say the strategy could backfire if shoppers don't spend enough money to justify the cost of staying open.

In New York, I'm Amy Scott for Marketplace.

Follow Amy Scott at @amyreports