Saturday, December 27, 2008

Strange Sightings in Retail Land

"It was day after Christmas and all through the stores, not a creature was stirring, not even a sales hunter." It wasn't that bad, but I was really surprised by the very small numbers of people I am seeing out in the stores. In recent years, the days immediately following Christmas have been as busy as those immediately before. In my personal experience, that wasn't the case in 08.

On Christmas morning in our huge family, many of our family members had things that didn't fit, didn't work, or wasn't exactly what was wanted. I thought that I would be hauling at least 6 or 7 in the Suburban, but fear of the lines led to trading and making due for most. That lead to only four, with me driving. We had four stops on our list -- Academy (sporting goods), Sports Authority (sporting goods), Kohls, and JC Penny.

Even with the small number in our group, I was convinced that this mission would take hours, if not days. In reality, if the wife didn't go, we would have been done in less than two hours. She figured out how to make it last much longer.

The Sports Authority was nearly empty when we got there. There was around twenty in the entire store. At no time there was no more than two or three in the checkout lines. When we were ready to leave, our check out was empty.

Kohls was slightly better, but certainly nothing for management to get excited about, although the sales should have made it quite the attraction. The prices were extremely low on many items and you would think it would have attracted a crowd. We were checked out in no time.

I received a gift card to Academy and was ready to go, and the specials were really impressive. I walked out with a couple of college shirts representing my son's shool and a baseball cap for my Astros for less than $30. I even had dollars to spare. In spite of the low prices, the lines and crowds were typical of pre-Thanksgiving. They were not big at all.

Finally there was JC Penny. The sales weren't as strong and neither were the crowds. Very disappointing indeed!

According to Master Card, which monitors retail sales in general and not merely their own, Christmas sales plunged by at least 2 to 4 percent. In a business environment that demands an annual increase in sales on Christmas, this is unacceptable. This is expected to be a difficult year for retail indeed.

Kevin Price is a syndicated columnist whose articles frequently appear at ChicagoSunTimes.com, Reuters.com, USAToday.com, and other national media. Kevin Price is Host of the Price of Business (M-F at 11 AM on CNN 650) and Publisher of the Houston Business Review. Hear the show live and online at PriceofBusiness.com. Visit the archive of past shows here.

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