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Deep Discounts Lure Holiday Spenders

November 25, 2001|From Reuters

CHICAGO — Home electronics, toys and clothes were the top-selling items Saturday as shoppers ensured that the post-Thanksgiving weekend remained their busiest and retailers cut prices to tempt them to spend in a slow economy.

Shoppers returned in droves to Wal-Mart stores Saturday, a day after the discount retailer reported record one-day sales of $1.25 billion.

Many store chains will not have sales figures until next week, but early returns have been encouraging. Some economists had predicted holiday sales could be down about 4% from a year ago because of the slowing economy and general gloom after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"I would say sales are flat to slightly above last year," said Karen MacDonald, spokeswoman for Taubman Centers Inc., which runs 31 shopping centers in 13 states.

Holiday sales are important to retailers because they typically account for 25% of the retailers' annual sales.

Helping sales Saturday was mild weather throughout much of the country.

Because of aggressive discounting and special store hours Friday, shoppers were slower to arrive at stores Saturday, which MacDonald said is typical during the weekend after Thanksgiving.

"Friday was a good day for us," said Peggy Palter, spokeswoman for Sears, Roebuck & Co. "Electronics was a very strong area."

In addition to DVD players and big-screen TVs, Palter said, roller skates that can be converted into sneakers were another hot seller. "They are calling them the scooters of this year," said Palter, referring to last year's two-wheel scooter craze.

Stores also reported strong sales of toys, men's and women's apparel, and jewelry.

Discounts abounded, with top retailers such as Kmart Corp., Sears and Wal-Mart offering reduced prices that in the past have been reserved for after the holidays.

On Friday, Sears cut prices 10% on all items, even those already on sale. Discount retailer Kmart cut prices from 20% to 70% during a four-day sale that began Thanksgiving and ends late Sunday. Kmart will also keep its more than 2,100 stores open for 66 straight hours from Friday through 11 p.m. local time Sunday.

Security was tight, with some stores hiring off-duty police officers or advising their security forces to be extra vigilant. No incidents were reported Saturday.

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