Retailers slash prices to entice shoppers

December 26, 2008 5:12:50 PM PST
Shoppers hit the stores early Friday to return unwanted gifts and take advantage of drastic price cuts offered by retailers desperate to get rid of old merchandise and boost their less-than-cheery holiday sales.

This is a last-ditch effort by retailers to clear the shelves, and at Serramonte, shoppers have turned out in strong numbers.

Nationally, December retail sales are off four percent -- that figure excludes gasoline. Luxury goods stores took it hardest. They are down almost 35 percent.

Bay Area stores gave plenty of reason for shoppers to rise early to get 50 to 70 percent discounts. However, consumers have been getting hefty markdowns for weeks and now expect bargains.

"I myself have been waiting for the sales, and I see the sales, and you kind of get spoiled and expect that forever," said shopper Charlie Bereeda.

By mid-morning, parking was hard to find at Serramonte Center in Daly City. Shoppers said they were expecting crowds today.

"It's just what I expected. After Christmas, people are trying to get the bargains. I haven't seen any yet, so I'm very excited to see what's out there," said San Francisco resident Kendra Jones.

Few were disappointed with the markdowns. One store offered buy 2, get 1 for a penny.

Clearly, some people were shopping for themselves, using holiday gift cards or cash.

Others were taking advantage of the demise of some retailers unable to survive the slump in retail sales.

A jewelry store was doing a brisk business. Calculators were working hard to factor in discounts on top of discounts.

And Mervyn's was packed with shoppers who have two days left before the store closes forever.

But what happens after the holidays?

"I think the malls will be dead," said Stockton resident Helen Bomediano.

"And that's not going to be good for the stores," said ABC7's Moneyscope reporter David Louie.

"Not good for the economy nowadays, but what can you do?" said Bomediano.

Retail analysts say the stores are facing an uncertain future.

"I think if you look at it and compare this to the last time we had a retail slowdown, which was after 9/11, the retailers are in much better financial shape, but we're definitely going to see more stores closing after the holiday season," said retail sales analyst Eric Beder.

One bright spot for retailers could be online sales. Preliminary figures will come out on Monday.

Amazon.com said it had its best ever season but didn't provide any dollar figures. It did say it sold almost 73 items per second on its peak day 11 days ago.


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