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Final retail rush kicks off today

Mitchell Hartman Dec 26, 2011

Jeremy Hobson: For most Americans, today is a holiday — a day off. But it might not feel like it at malls and shopping centers, where the day after Christmas is expected to be one of the busiest days of the year.

It’s when retailers try to put a final jolt into their yearly sales numbers with promotions, coupons and the deepest of discounts. But this holiday season — which has been nothing but discounts — you have to ask: How low can prices go?

Marketplace’s Mitchell Hartman hit the stores in downtown Portland, Ore., today to find out.

Mitchell Hartman: A steady stream of shoppers headed into the Pioneer Place Mall this morning. Megan Ward headed back out just after 9 a.m. with shopping bags full.

Megan Ward: We did some returns, and then bought clothes that I wanted instead, or fit better. And I got more outfits.

She was able to buy more because of the deep discounts stores are running this week—to try to zero out their Christmas inventory, at any price.

Retail analyst Patty Edwards says these sales tell a tale of retailers that were too optimistic when they put their orders in earlier this year.

Patty Edwards: There are places in Retail-land that have way too much inventory. And I think you can tell just by the percentage-off you’re seeing. So, Abercrombie & Fitch, offering 50 percent off everything in the store. But if you look at Nordstrom or Macy’s, it’s select discounts on select items.

Edwards says hip fashion chains in particular had a tough Christmas. Could be because unemployment’s so high among young adults.

But isn’t holiday shopping all about giving to others? NPD retail analyst Marshall Cohen says, not really. This season it was all about ‘self-gifting.’

Marshall Cohen: We see electronics getting a boost from the self-gifting. You don’t give many TVs as a gift, but you certainly buy them for yourself.

Shoppers like Ashley McMullen, though, are seeking something else as they brave the post-Christmas crowds.

Ashley McMullen: Compared to the craziness of being with family, it’s kind of a nice mindless break.

Call it ‘family-retail therapy.’

I’m Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

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