Shoppers, retailers hit the home stretch

Final days among season’s busiest

By The Mercury

Remember back when Black Friday was the rage — it’ll be four entire weeks tomorrow — and experts were saying that some of the best deals were yet to come?

If you ignored them because of the frenzy of the moment — or because of some truly momentous prices — you weren’t alone. And you may not have been unwise. After all, a lot of Black Friday shoppers got most of their Christmas shopping done. Lots of people who sat on the sidelines on Black Friday might now be wishing they hadn’t.

It seems this last week — and weekend — before Christmas are a little like Black Friday. There are plenty of sales and plenty of shoppers. And both sellers and buyers know time is running out. Several of the top 10 shopping days of the season remain, including the Saturday before Christ-mas, which trails only Black Friday in spending.

Nationwide, foot traffic and sales since Black Friday have been a little disappointing, says ShopperTrak, which monitors such things at 40,000 stores. Even online sales, though up, aren’t as impressive as had been projected. Which means that retailers who want to clear merchandise may have to lower prices even further. That’s good for customers, of course, but it’s not good for the businesses’ bottom lines.

Many of the shoppers who haven’t finished yet are habitual procrastinators who might stumble into unexpected bargains. Others, however, are late-season shoppers by design, holding out for favorite stores’ last, best prices. The ranks of the bargain-hunters this year are swelled, at least a bit, by folks who fear the worst in the fiscal cliff negotiations in Washington, D.C., and want to be ready for whatever comes. Understand-ably, significant numbers of shoppers also remain concerned about their job security.

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