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December 24 2012 2 24 /12 /December /2012 05:08

Retailers turn to discounts to boost holiday sales

People check out the Macy's holiday window displays in New York,

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — U.S. retailers looked to revive flagging holiday sales on the last shopping weekend before Christmas.


With the fiscal cliff and other economic jitters dampening prospects for the sector, shopping centers, malls and storefront establishments geared up Saturday for the heaviest sales weekend of the year ahead of Tuesday’s gift-giving.


The peak of the holiday shopping season came as concerns mount over a downward move in the economy if lawmakers don’t agree on a package of tax hikes and spending cuts to avert the so-called fiscal cliff. See Friday’s story about stalled fiscal cliff efforts.


Expectations remained less than rosy since shoppers have already been putting the brakes on spending. Ree: Retailers may see disappointing holiday sales



Week ahead: Christmas and the cliff

In a holiday-shortened trading week, the fiscal cliff is likely to become a cliffhanger. Photo: Getty Images

“I don’t think we’re going to get a great pickup in the last few days here,” retail analyst Ronald Friedman of Marcum LLP told Reuters.


Sales growth for the week ended Dec. 15 is running about 4% behind last year’s pace, according to ShopperTrak data released Friday.


U.S. retail sales fell 1.2% below 2011’s level in the first half of December, causing a downward shift in expectations.

In one hopeful sign, retail sales jumped 16.4% over the previous week.


“Shoppers took advantage of the mild weather in most parts of the country to shop for gifts and other seasonal merchandise,” ShopperTrack said.


Retailers are expected to turn to deep discounts to lure Americans into more spending as the holiday shopping season comes to a climax.


But recent setbacks in Washington won’t provide much of a lift for flagging consumer sentiment.


The drama took a turn for the worst on Friday, with no resolution reached ahead of the holiday break and only a few days of negotiations left before automatic spending cuts and tax increases take effect on Jan. 1.


President Barack Obama asked lawmakers to accept a scaled-back deal to extend unemployment insurance and tax cuts for those making $250,000 or less. He then headed off for his annual Christmas trip to Hawaii.


On the Republican side, House Speaker John Boehner earlier this week canceled the so-called “Plan B” tax vote linked to fiscal-cliff talks. See related story.


The failure to reach a resolution on the fiscal cliff has apparently impacted consumer confidence, according to data released Friday. See related story on consumer confidence.


“What could have been a merry Christmas is going to turn to a ho-hum Christmas, and we can thank our, you know, politicians for getting in the middle of it all,” NPD analyst Marshal Cohen said in comments to Reuters in an article published on Saturday.

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