* U.S. malls were busy throughout extended Friday hours
* Strong online shopping bodes well for "Cyber Monday"
* Black Friday spending up 6.6 percent - ShopperTrak
By Phil Wahba and Jessica Wohl
Nov 26 U.S. retailers moved from the frenzied
start of the holiday shopping season to the next phase on
Saturday, hoping to avoid a drop after Black Friday and keep
the momentum going during a fitful economic recovery.
After featuring the usual deep discounts on Thanksgiving on
Thursday and on Friday, retailers were still offering bargains
on Saturday as holiday spending is expected to show only about
half the growth of last year.
The holiday shopping season that traditionally kicks off on
Black Friday - the biggest day of the year for retailers - is
closely watched by investors as consumer spending accounts for
about 70 percent of the U.S. economy.
Initial signs were encouraging. ShopperTrak, which measures
retail traffic, estimated that sales rose 6.6 percent on Friday
compared with a year earlier.
But in 2010 retailers also got off to a strong start to the
holidays, only to see a sharp and quick falloff. The National
Retail Federation expects holiday retail sales to rise 2.8
percent this year, down from 5.2 percent growth in 2010.
That means an even tougher battle for market share.
"Everybody is fighting for the same consumer," said Laura
Gurski, a partner at management consulting firm A.T. Kearney.
Those consumers included Alison Shartrand, a Boston-based
accountant who visited clothing retailer Aeropostale's store on
Times Square. "I'm only going to shop if there are deals ...
the cheaper the better," she said.
Aeropostale Inc , said on its website everything was
50 to 70 percent off in its "Saturday Blowout." At a Gap Inc store in New York's Times Square, everything at the
clothing retailer was 60 percent off on Saturday.
"That's the name of the game now - promote, promote,
promote," said David Bassuk, managing director of consultancy
AlixPartners LLP. "They've got to keep it coming."
STRIKING THE RIGHT BALANCE
Neighborhood shops - often undercut and overwhelmed by big
chain stores and warehouse clubs - showcased their own efforts
during "Small Business Saturday" promoted by American Express and others. President Barack Obama was among those
shopping at local shops in Washington.
The hunt for bargains turned ugly at some stores on
One of the most outrageous incidents was at a Walmart store in the Los Angeles area, where up to 20 people
were hurt when a woman used pepper spray to get the edge on
other shoppers rushing for Xbox game consoles. She turned
herself in to police on Saturday.
The tough economy, coupled with smart phones that allow for
fast comparison of prices, mean the pressure to offer consumers
something special and affordable is intense.
"We have put together an entire promotional program for the
whole season so we don't shoot all our bullets on the day after
Thanksgiving," Jamie Brooks, senior vice president of retail
services for Sears Holdings , told Reuters on Friday.
Deep discounts alone may not be enough.
The Black Friday campaign by department store chain Macy's
Inc featured an ad with teen singer Justin Bieber and
exclusive products will be a focus of its holiday promotions.
Retailers are also trying to strike the right balance
between not having too much inventory that must later be sold
at profit-draining discounts and making sure they do not anger
customers by running out of popular items.
"The most important thing to our customers is when we see
something in an ad and come into the store, we have to have
it," said J.C. Penney Co Inc executive Mike Thielmann.
Online shopping soared on both Thanksgiving and Black
Friday, suggesting that Cyber Monday - the biggest online
shopping day of the year - could be a banner day for retailers
with the right mix of discounts, special offers and the now
commonplace free shipping.
IBM Smarter Commerce, a software and services company for
retailers, said online sales rose 39.3 percent on Thanksgiving
and 24.3 percent on Black Friday, with robust growth in
searches and sales on mobile phones and tablets.