Ailing economy has retailers rolling out super sales early - East Valley Tribune: Business

Ailing economy has retailers rolling out super sales early

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Posted: Friday, November 14, 2008 6:29 pm | Updated: 9:29 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Judy Harvard stopped by Dillard's department store at Mesa's Fiesta Mall and bought herself a $70 pair of shoes for $47. Then she headed to Macy's where she found a red velveteen Christmas dress for her granddaughter.

The price on the tag was $50. Harvard shelled out $23, including tax, for the double-discounted outfit.

It wasn't Veterans Day or Presidents Day or any other excuse-for-a-sale-day, just a mid-November Friday in a week when retailers were reporting quarterly sales results and reeling from huge revenue decreases.

There were no real surprises in the financial reports as evidenced by the big red sale signs already in abundance in shop windows throughout the East Valley and nationwide.

Retailers are slashing prices weeks before the traditional holiday spending season kicks into high gear in hopes of persuading consumers who have less money and more worries than usual this year to make it a happy spending season anyway.

Day-after-Thanksgiving-like deals are in stores now and are likely to continue for the rest of the year, said Ellen Davis, spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation.

"This is a national trend," Davis said. "In past years, we didn't see such aggressive promotions this early. The sales this year are indicative of a struggling economy. Retailers know that for consumers price is key. It's the only way to get customers in the store."

The super deals got Harvard to start spending, she said.

Ditto for Tara Acres of Chandler, who stopped by a Disney store to buy a birthday gift and found out the store was discounting everything 25 percent. She bought the birthday present and two items on her Christmas gift list.

And she stocked up on stocking stuffers on sale at Bath and Body Works using a coupon to boost her savings.

"I am watching for sales," Acres said. "We have to spread out (holiday) purchases over two months because of the economy."

DISCOUNTING DIFFERENTLY

Acres is not alone in attempting to spread holiday shopping trips over time to stretch budgets rather than relying on a last-minute spending splurge, Davis said. And savvy retailers have taken note, she said.

Besides discounting deeper and earlier than in years past, retailers are discounting differently - putting some items on sale for a week at a time and discounting different items the next week.

"The deals won't necessarily get better, but they'll change," Davis said. "The deals will get you into the store to get one thing and keep you coming back the next week for something else."

Walmart, for example, recently announced a seven-weeks-of-savings plan, and the discounter even lets consumers sign up to receive a mobile alert when a new batch of savings kicks in.

Even stores at the higher end of the spending spectrum are tuning in to new thrifty shopper dynamics.

Nordstrom is in the middle of its half-yearly sale, which offers big bargains on last season's items.

There's more than the usual high-end items to pick from this time. Though luxury retailers typically survive economic downturns better than midscale shops, this economy has felled all but the discounters.

Nordstrom reported this week that third-quarter sales in full-line stores open at least a year were down nearly 16 percent from the same period in 2007. Sales in the company's outlet chain, Nordstrom Rack, were up nearly 4 percent for the same period.

"We could see our customers are seeking more value," said Brooke White, Nordstrom spokeswoman.

The company isn't jumping on the super sale bandwagon like most retailers, but Nordstrom is adding value by reducing the regular price of about 800 items by an average of 22 percent, White said.

And Nordstrom is doubling points earned in its frequent shopper program from now until year end, she said. The program usually rewards shoppers with a $20 gift certificate for every $1,000 spent in the store. Now it only takes $500 to earn the bonus, White said.

And while Nordstrom doesn't hold sales on new merchandise, the retailer is touting its promised price match if a competitor does, White said. It's not a new policy, she said, but possibly not widely known.

MATCHING PRICES

Best Buy also offers price matches, said Edward Trybula, store service manager for a Mesa Best Buy, and the electronics discounter also stages its own super sales.

On Friday, a $1,149 HP laptop could be had for $899, and several TVs were discounted $100 to $200.

A price match could get an even better deal, Trybula said, but it doesn't extend to going-out-of-business sales.

Still, it was a clearance sale that prompted MacKenzie Greyeyes' 30-percent-off Guitar Hero purchase and her sister's equally discounted RockStar.

The big discounts on the high-tech music video gaming systems at bankrupt Circuit City got Greyeyes of Scottsdale and her sister to open their wallets for pricey gifts in tough economic times.

"I wouldn't normally buy something this expensive because of the economy," she said.

For the rest of her holiday gift buying, Greyeyes said she'll be "shopping everywhere I can get a sale."

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