Market Overview

Retailers Work to Squeeze in More Sales During Shortened Holiday Season

Spurred on by this year's shortened holiday shopping season, a number of major retailers have decided to go straight from Halloween to Christmas, with barely a nod towards Thanksgiving.

Reuters reports Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE: WMT) began its online sales promotions on Friday, one month earlier than usual, amid industry concerns the upcoming holiday season could be one of the weakest in recent years.

“We know that our customers start shopping for the holidays on Nov. 1 because historically our traffic spikes the day after Halloween,” Joel Anderson, Wal-Mart president and CEO, said in a press statement. “Customers want to relax with friends and family during the holidays, and with our early deals we are helping them make the most of their time and helping them stretch their dollars further.”

The National Retail Federation says the holiday season can account for up to 40 percent of a retailer's annual revenue. This year's season is six days shorter than last year's, however, and many companies are trying attract consumers with a variety of incentives – well ahead of the usual, post-Thanksgiving “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” events.

"Retailers are already initiating holiday discounts to lure in customers," Lindsey Piegza of Sterne Agee Piegza wrote in a report this week, according to the Los Angeles Times. "But many more see the declining trend in spending, and bracing for a weak holiday season, are lowering sales forecasts and reducing seasonal hiring."

Piegza said consumer uncertainty about the still-recovering economy, as well as "the ongoing shenanigans in Washington," are also pressuring the retail sector.Morgan Stanley analyst Kimberly Greenberger , who earlier this week forecasted soft holiday retail sales, tells the LA Times she expects this holiday season to be the most promotional since the start of the great recession in 2008 – with e-commerce making up around 12 to 13 percent of all holiday retail sales, compared to 11 percent in 2012.

And Wal-Mart is not alone in trying to score earlier than usual holiday sales. Reuters notes Toys R Us offered cash-back incentives to loyalty program members who bought specific toys before Halloween, and has been airing holiday ads earlier than usual.

Meanwhile, according to the Times, Macy's (NYSE: M), Kohl's (NYSE: KSS) and J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP) plan to be open and offering discounts on Thanksgiving evening, hours ahead of the Black Friday rush.


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