Economy & Shopping 12 Dec 2006 07:38 am

Researcher Sees Fewer People in Stores

by Sean Hackbarth

One retail researcher sees a lackluster Christmas shopping season:

Spot checks at shopping centers throughout the last week found foot traffic lackluster by several holiday-shopping-period comparative measures. Britt Beemer, founder of America’s Research Group, was so worried that he lowered his sales-growth estimate to 2.7% from 3.1%.

“The lack of a ‘must-have’ item for Christmas and the lackluster way retailers have approached the Christmas season this year compels me,” Beemer said.

It is only the fourth time in his 20 years of forecasting that he’s trimmed his holiday forecast.

“Shoppers are just not seeing the excitement at the stores,” he added.

Or they might be playing a particularly hard-nosed game of chicken with retailers during the most crucial shopping period. Many retailers ring up 40% to 60% of their annual profit during the November-December period, with some reaping as much as 80%.

Along with no “must-have” item (funny, HD TVs did well on Black Friday) Beemer’s survey found shoppers were disappointed in the lack of store help.

If shoppers wait to buy retailers might have to really slash prices to draw them in. That would cut their margins, hurting profits. Not good for retail stocks. A recent trend that’s helped retailers has been the rise of gift cards. It’s extended the shopping season from shortly after Christmas through the time kids, who get the cards, head back to school. Just make sure you don’t get scammed.

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