Wal-Mart is selling 26-inch high-definition TVs for $450 this weekend. Circuit City plans to give away consumer electronics prizes every day for the next 30 days, starting Sunday.
You can pick up NASCAR Power Wheels for $150 at Toys R Us today, the end of a two-day sale launching the kid-focused retailers’ annual gift catalog.
Retailers, eyeing the housing slump and the credit crunch that has decimated consumer confidence, are slashing prices early in hopes of snagging a bigger share of the annual Christmas spending spree.
That spree is expected to be a little more subdued than usual this year, said Ellen Davis, spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation.
The retail group predicts a 4 percent increase in holiday spending compared with last year, she said, but that’s well below the 4.8 percent 10-year average increase.
Davis said 63 percent of national retailers will have started holiday sales by Sunday, and another 21 percent will start next week.
Despite the hype, holiday promotions aren’t really starting any earlier than in past years, Davis said. But the deep discounting is.
“For several years, retailers have been starting Christmas promotions as soon as Halloween merchandise is off the shelves, but they may be more aggressive this year out of the gate because of concerns about the economy,” she said. “But what’s dicey about starting such aggressive promotions this early is they will have to keep ratcheting them up.”
Dicey for retailers, maybe, but good news for consumers, who can expect sales to continue to get better as the holiday approaches.
Wal-Mart’s Southwest area spokesman Daniel Morales said offering day-after-Thanksgiving-like prices this weekend “is providing customers an early Christmas gift, so they can plan holiday (spending) over a longer span.”
Other retailers starting sales this weekend said it is not because of Wal-Mart.
Toys R Us always stages a big promotion when it debuts its annual gift catalog, said spokeswoman Kathleen Waugh.
“Traditionally, the toy industry is the most immune to bad economic times. When parents look for ways to cut back, the last thing they cut back is on their children,” she said.
And big-box electronics retailers said competition is not a factor in their promotional plans.
“Circuit City is about to launch a major early-holiday marketing initiative that’s been in the works here for months,” said spokeswoman Jackie Foreman.
Best Buy, which is keeping holiday sales plans close to the vest, said it has “put in place products, prices and services,” that will keep business brisk for the next couple of months.
Several customers interviewed at a Mesa Wal-Mart store Friday said it’s too early for Christmas shopping yet. Mesa resident Brian Sibley said he doesn’t plan any Christmas shopping until Dec. 1.
“October is for Halloween, November is for Thanksgiving, December is for Christmas,” he said.
“I know I’ll wait to the last minute and do it that way,” said Mesa resident Christine Lawson.