Stores hope summer Christmas sales will woo wary shoppers
Early discounts let buyers spread out holiday expenses, but some skeptical
NEW YORK — Santa in the summer?
Retailers are pumping still more energy this year into trying to get shoppers to loosen their purse strings early for Christmas with sparkly ornaments, holiday music and special prices. In July.
Target Corp. is entering the game for the first time, with a one-day online sale Friday on 500 items as diverse as clothing and Blu-ray disc players that’s modeled after sales typically held during Thanksgiving weekend. And Sears and Toys R Us are dramatically promoting “Christmas in July” online and in stores based on the success they saw in last year’s efforts.
“We really wanted to create that sense of excitement, that sense of urgency,” Target spokeswoman Molly Hanus said.
Retailers pushed Christmas promotions as early as Septem- ber during the recession as they competed for shoppers’ dwindling dollars and tried to get them back into stores. Some recession-weary shoppers have been glad to spread out the cost of the holidays, especially if discounts average 40 percent as Target’s do. But
others might be turned off by the snowflakes and Santas and glitz. And stores are divided as well.
“It’s smarter to buy this early,” said Ebony Rios, a 17-year-old high school student shopping during the weekend at Toys R Us in New York’s Times Square, where a Santa in sunglasses lounged in a swimming pool in one ad. The Clayton, N.C., resident — who said she spent $200 on her nieces and nephews at the store’s online summer sale last year — plans to take advantage again this year.
But Tammy Perez, 28, from Bloomington, Ind., wasn’t ready.
“It’s too hot to think about Christmas,” said the administrative assistant, also at Toys R Us on Sunday. “The earliest I will shop will be in October.”
Some merchants, including J.C. Penney and Shoebuy.com, agree.
“Customers don’t like it when you push Christmas too early,” said Mike Boylston, J.C. Penney’s chief marketing officer.
That’s especially true when shoppers are already putting off buying anything until the moment they actually need it, he said.
Janet Hoffman, global managing partner at Accenture’s retail practice, called July holiday sales “a risky bet.” Shoppers could be inspired to buy more, but summer promotions also can hurt back-to-school buying and depress December business, she said. Merchants are taking a variety of tactics:
Target customers can find a link at Target.com for what the chain is calling “Back in Black,” which includes Philips Bluray disc players for $99.99 and Liberty of London dresses for $14.99. The 24-hour sale, which starts at 2 a.m. Friday Central
‘It’s too hot to think about Christmas. The earliest I will shop will be in October.’
Administrative assistant from Bloomington, Ind.
time, will not be advertised in Target stores.
Sears Holdings Corp.’s Sears.com and Kmart.com shoppers are invited to “Christmas Lane” to shop for lights, ornaments and outdoor décor, and the websites are temporarily offering free shipping on all orders worth $39 or more.
In more than 500 Sears stores, holiday tunes will be playing at least through Sunday in the seasonal aisles, where customers can touch holiday merchandise such as stuffed animals, ornaments and light-up porcelain houses. Last year’s “Christmas in July” included 200 stores.
Toys R Us is promoting its summertime discounts more heavily than it did last year with deals of the day and free shipping through Saturday.
Natalie Norris-Howser, spokeswoman at Sears Holdings, said the company’s summertime holiday promotions did very well last year and that it may extend the sale as it did last year to appeal to cautious consumers.
“They’re people in general that don’t have the expendable cash,” she said. The event allows shoppers to see what’s going to be available so they can budget or put items on layaway, she said.
But many other Americans are in the same situation as Isabel Velazquez, 39, a Toys R Us shopper who said she can’t think about spending right now.
“I just got laid off,” the Wilkes-Barre, Pa., resident said.
Toys R Us, which held a ‘Christmas in July’ sale last year, is promoting its discounts more heavily this year. Other retailers such as Sears and Target are offering holiday markdowns in an effort to persuade shoppers to start spending early.