Retailers Try to Grab Dollars Ahead of Utilities
By George Anderson
Retailers are looking to drive holiday sales early before high home energy prices force consumers to put the brakes to spending.
Companies, including L.L. Bean, Radio Shack, Old Navy and Wal-Mart, began advertising and promoting sale prices and special deals, such as free shipping on internet orders, earlier than usual, say industry experts.
Rich Donaldson, a spokesperson for L.L. Bean, told The Boston Globe, ‘We decided to make a meaningful offer (free shipping on all orders) at a time when consumers are likely to be faced with increased expenses for energy and heating. It comes at a considerable expense to us, but we are being aggressive and believe that offering it early on will outshine other offers coming from competitors.”
Internet sales are expected to be strong this year as consumers opt to take the information superhighway rather than one jammed with cars leading to nearby malls and shopping sales. Aside from traffic, the high cost of fuel is also a consideration for many. Even though gas prices have dropped from record highs in recent weeks, the average cost for a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline remains around $2.40.
Shopping in stores, however, still remains the primary venue for consumers’ purchases. That’s where the increased and early promotional activity comes in.
Sabrina Joyce, a consumer who lives in Lynn, Mass., told The Globe she had noticed the increased promotional activity by retailers. ‘This is the first year of my life that I’m out shopping this early,” she said. “I’d rather get the shopping done now before my bills come. The gas and oil have gone up so much, it makes you stop and think, especially if you have a family.”
Moderator’s Comment: Will the combination of early sales by retailers and consumers’ knowledge that heating bills are on the way result in higher than
usual sales before the Black Friday weekend? What do you think the sales picture will look like during the traditional Thanksgiving to New Year’s period? Which of the retailers
getting out early with holiday promotions has impressed you most? –
George Anderson – Moderator