Are the Holidays Here Yet?

Holiday shoppers looking for discounts may either have to settle for something smaller or wait longer than last year as retailers have cleared out inventory, giving them more room to maintain prices.

According to one comic, Americans are divided into those who already have all their holiday shopping done and those who are waiting for the last minute. That may be extreme, but retailers are already looking forward to the holiday shopping season and savvy consumers might do well to follow their example. With money likely to be tight, what sort of merchandising strategies are retailers going to employ?

According to retail industry analysts, discounts will probably be smaller than last year, when some items were selling for as much as 80% off the list price. Retailers have slashed inventories this year, which gives them more room to maintain prices since they are less likely to have excess merchandise to move at distress prices. Discounts will range around 40% to 60% and they won’t be as easy to find, say the merchandising mavens. Also, retailers will probably hold off until later in the holiday shopping season before posting big markdowns. Consumers who wait to shop until after Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, are likely to see more and bigger discounts.

To find the best deals, holiday bargain hunters should look into consumer electronics, because of competition between retailers like Best Buy and online giant Amazon. Home furnishings and women’s clothing are also hard-hit areas where buyers may find big savings, say the retail consultants. Caveat: Because of shrunken inventories, shoppers who wait for a bigger discount on an item they really want may find it sold out instead.