Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Stores Push More Deals and Extend Black Friday Discounts

My wife works retail management, so we're always talking about this stuff. At LAT, "Black Friday Becoming Week of Discounts and Extended Hours":
Call it Gray Friday.

Black Friday, the traditional kickoff to the holiday shopping season, has lost a bit of its luster as hungry retailers try to stretch the one-day shopping bacchanal on the day after Thanksgiving into a weeklong bonanza.

Big chains including Sears and Toys R Us have joined Wal-Mart and Kmart in offering Thanksgiving Day hours. Others have already begun hawking massive discounts and pushing online deals. And to keep the party going past Friday, many retailers will offer fresh discounts Saturday and Sunday.

There's a lot riding on the outcome. Retailers hope an improving economy will bring the biggest holiday receipts in four years — and if they succeed, it could help set off a chain of events that could accelerate the country's slow recovery, said economist Esmael Adibi of Chapman University.

"If the retail sector is healthy, that will eventually lead down the road to expansions, and expansions lead to hiring," he said. "Additional hiring generates more income, and then that income in turn will be spent. It's a multiplier effect."

Wall Street was feeling optimistic about the retail industry as it headed into the all-important Thanksgiving weekend. Continuing a recent run-up, investors pushed an index of 90 retail stocks to the highest level in more than three years Wednesday, with Guess shares gaining 11% and shares of, Tiffany & Co. and Big 5 each rising more than 5%.

Consumer spending at the nation's retailers, although not robust, has been generally healthy all year. So economists are predicting the best holiday season since 2006 (before the recession) and are estimating a year-over-year retail sales increase of 2.3% to 3.5%.

Despite the earlier-than-ever holiday deals this year, habitual Black Friday shoppers say they'll still be out in force for the annual shopping extravaganza.