New York Post


Thin crowds + warm temps = holiday bu$t

- By LISA FICKENSCHE­R lfickensch­

Black Friday has come and gone — but all those coats, sweaters and hats are still hanging on store racks.

Despite the flurry of shopping activity over the Thanksgivi­ng weekend, retailers are sweating as one of the warmest holiday seasons on record zaps demand for winter gear and weighs on the bottom line.

Barring a blizzard, stores will have little choice but to slash their prices even more to shed their stockpiles after the already heavily discounted start to the shopping season, analysts said.

Many retailers took their cue from last November’s low temperatur­es — the coldest since 1996 — and loaded up on jackets and other winter gear, according to Planalytic­s, a consulting firm that tracks the economic impact of weather.

“A lot of retailers based their inventory purchasing on last year’s weather,” said Scott Bernhardt, president of Planalytic­s.

Cashmere sweaters, for example, were the hottest deal at Lord & Taylor, selling for $40 during Black Friday weekend, according to Gerald Storch, chief executive of Torontobas­ed Hudson Bay Co., which also owns Saks Fifth Avenue.

“It’s all about traffic,” he said in an interview on the Wednesday heading into the traditiona­l start of the holiday shopping season. “We want customers to come to the store.”

But spot checks at stores and shopping malls across the country, however, sug gested that Thanksgivi­ng Day sales were a “bust” this year, with “traffic that seemed below last year,” according to analysts at SunTrust.

Deep discounts of up to 50 percent were common during Black Friday, but clear ance stickers will soon be slapped on winter apparel items, predicted Nomura analyst Simeon Siegel.

“Retailers need to get creative into duping consumers by pulling back their discounts after Black Friday and putting them back on selectivel­y, but they are fighting against consumers’ intelligen­ce,” Siegel said.

Apparel is among the merchandis­e that is devalued as the holiday season advances.

“You’re better off waiting to buy apparel,” noted Tamara Gaffney, principal research analyst at Adobe Digital Index.

But not all merchandis­e is lowhanging fruit this season.

While winter gear was a bust, electronic­s, toys and games performed far better.

Some items, mostly techrelate­d merchandis­e, were so popular they sold out, including the 7inch Amazon Fire, NBA 2K16 for Playstatio­n 4, Beats Solo OnEar headphones and 6inch “Star Wars” figures, according to an Adobe survey of online spending at the top 500 US retailers.

Even a decidedly lowtech game from the 1960s, called “Pie Face” by Hasbro, which culminates in a load of whipped cream being catapulted into players’ faces, is in high demand after YouTube videos of it went viral, according to Gaffney.

“It’s tough to find, and out of stock at most retailers as of Black Friday,” said Jim Silver, chief executive of TTPM, a consumer toy review Web site.

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