US Retailers Pushing Holiday Sales as Storm Looms

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SAN FRANCISCO, Dec 20 (Reuters) - U.S. retailers opened their doors early to recession-weary shoppers on Saturday in a final, frenzied push to save holiday sales with the added disruption of a winter storm heading for the country's Midwest and Northeast.

The National Retail Federation predicted that two-thirds of Americans still had holiday shopping left to do but foul weather kept many close to home in some parts of the country on Friday. Freezing rain and snow were expected for several regions through the weekend.

The storms hit at the worst possible time for U.S. store chains, which are trying to salvage the critical holiday shopping season amid a flagging economy and lure consumers with last-minute deals before Christmas next week.

Many shoppers have said they are giving fewer gifts and looking only for marked-down merchandise, grim news for retailers who may see their weakest holiday season since the early 1990s.

"It's bad news," said Scott Bernhardt, chief operating officer of national weather forecasting service Planalytics, speaking of Friday's storm and another to hit later on Saturday.

"Today is the day -- it's going to count more than ever because you're not getting Sunday," Bernhardt said. "That first storm really shocked people and when the weatherman says it's going to snow on Sunday it will keep people away."

Reuters
 

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Boxing Day sales are 'busiest in memory'

The sales began at 7am, with unprecedented reductions

Shoppers converged on high streets and malls across the country this morning for the busiest Boxing Day sales in living memory, as retailers slashed prices in a desperate bid to stay afloat.

Many stores were offering discounts as high as 90 per cent to lure customers inside after a dismal pre-Christmas period.

Department stores reported large queues from as early as 5am, two hours before the first shops opened, although millions of bargain-hunters got started early, breaking off from turkey and charades for a spot of online shopping on Christmas Day itself.

London's Oxford Street district was expecting footfall of about half a million people today. But despite the last minute surge, analysts warned that profits were down and the outlook was gloomy for shopkeepers after the collapse of three high street brands in just 24 hours earlier this week.

The British Retail Consortium said that margins were under severe pressure in the wake of unprecedented discounts and promotions combined with weak sales.

Timesonline
 
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