Stores lure shoppers online and off

A woman in San Francisco reflected in a Macy's window as she looks at a Christmas display

TEXT OF STORY

Bob Moon: On to more mundane business, if that's really the word for what's happening to retail sales. Frankly, retailers will be thankful if you'd just spend some money with them today. Sure, the sales extravaganza known as Black Friday is officially hours away. But many stores have already posted their discounts online today.

And in some places around the country shoppers are already standing in line to be first in the doors tomorrow morning. That being the case, we asked our Amy Scott why the holiday sales outlook remains dismal.


Amy Scott: If you've watched any television lately, you know how desperate retailers are for your cash.

Tape of a commercial: Get hundreds of doorbusters 4 a.m. to 1 p.m. Get our lowest prices ever! The biggest shopping event of the year.

Dan De Grandpre tracks retail bargains at Dealnews.com. He says this year the promotions started early.

De Grandpre: We saw the first Black Friday sale in October. When you have the kind of environment that retailers are dealing with right now, they're going to do anything they can to make people stop and think about their stores.

Whether people actually spend money in those stores is another matter. Analysts are predicting the worst holiday sales since the early 1980s. It's no mystery why. More and more people are out of work. Credit is more expensive and harder to get. And with all the uncertainty, many people who have money are reluctant to spend it.

Tom Chin follows the retail industry at Telsey Advisory Group. He still expects a busy shopping weekend.

Tom Chin: There could be traffic in terms of just people wanting to go out there and look at the bargains, but the willingness to spend that dollar is mitigated by a lot of what's happening in the economy.

And, De Grandpre says, by the expectation that prices could come down even lower.

De Grandpre: If you're a consumer and you can't turn on the radio without hearing how badly the retailers are doing, you know this is not necessarily the only times they're going to be offering these kind of bargains. If you wait you could get better deals.

But if you wait till tomorrow for Black Friday bargains, you could be too late. Thanks to online sales today, De Grandpre says, some deals may be sold out before Friday even gets here.

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

MOON: By the way, about that "Black Friday" thing. The name comes from marking the point when retailers are supposed to be able to start showing a profit for the year.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.

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