Stores make the most of long shopping season

Christmas is on a Tuesday this year, meaning procrastinators get an extra day at the beginning of next week to finish up their shopping. And because Thanksgiving was as early as it could be this year, it's an extra-long holiday season for retailers.

This year, Christmas falls on a Tuesday. Which means, for any procrastinators out there, you’ve got an extra day at the beginning of the week to shop. And, since Thanksgiving was early –- well, that means an even longer holiday shopping season.
But what do the extra shopping days before Christmas mean to retailers? Paul Swinand, an equity analyst at Morningstar said there are some obvious plusses.
“Just the prosaic fact that if you have more days, more people will find their way into the store and buy things,” he said.
When Christmas falls on a weekend, like it did last year, retailers can lose some of their heaviest shopping days. But this year, a quirk in the way retailers keep their books has CFO’s licking their lips -- the fourth quarter will gain an extra week. However more time to shop also means the possibility of holiday fatigue. So Swinand says smart retailers, like Nordstroms, are keeping their products fresh.
“They turn their goods so fast," he said. "I was just doing a store check today and some stuff I saw last week was gone already."
Swinand says moving merchandise quickly tells customers “buy now," but letting goods sit on shelves said “expect sales," which is typically what retailers do do before the holidays. But Wharton marketing professor Barbara Khan says finding other ways to get consumers into stores is much better for bottom lines. She gives the example of Macys; most of its stores will be open for 48 hours straight the weekend before Christmas. 

“I talked to some of my undergraduate students here and the idea of going shopping late at night," she said. "That’s exciting. It’s something a little out of the ordinary and so it does feel like it’s special."
Shopping at 3 a.m. turns out to be special mostly for younger shoppers who may appreciate the opportunity to get out of their parents' house. Toys R Us plans to stay open for 88 consecutive hours leading up to Christmas, and Sears says it’s trying to up its attractiveness by offering in-store pick up for last minute online purchases. Khan said that could be a good strategy this holiday season.
“Ironically, even though there’s three days of shopping, there’s Saturday, Sunday and Monday, I think you’ll still see people pushing it to the very last minute just because they think they’ll have so much time they don’t have to rush out and shop and the next thing you know it’ll be Monday,” she said.

About the author

Sally Herships is a regular contributor to Marketplace.


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