NEW YORK (AP) — Americans hit the malls Sunday to spend gift cards on items Santa may have missed and pick over the clearance racks, though an East Coast snowstorm will crimp some plans.
Washington, D.C., is expected to get 5 to 8 inches of snow. New York and New England could get even more Sunday and Monday.
“The forecast will tend to keep them at home, it’s not the best day for shopping,” said Scott A. Bernhardt, chief operating officer at weather research firm Planalytics.
But because the storm is hitting after Christmas, the loss won’t less significant than last year’s snowstorm the Saturday before Christmas that buried much of the same area. That one cost retailers about $2 billion.
“People will redeem those gift cards through the week and through the next weekend,” he said.
The rest of the country had few weather problems, though, and retailers are rolling out deals to attract shoppers back to stores.
Strong sales this week would build on the highest-spending holiday season since 2007, which was a record year. Dec. 26-Jan. 1 makes up less than 10 percent of the Nov 1-Dec. 31 season but accounts for more than 15 percent of holiday spending, research firm ShopperTrak says.
The day after Christmas was the second-highest revenue day for retailers last year with $7.9 billion spent, according to ShopperTrak.
Bargains on the most desirable merchandise may be scarce.
“There will be good stuff on sale after Christmas, but what you really wanted will be sold out,” Stifel Nicolas analyst Richard Jaffe said. “You wanted the sweater in blue, the prettiest color, and it’s gone.”
That’s what happened to Lorraine McGrath. The 54-year-old wanted to pick up pajamas for her husband at J.C. Penney in New York first thing Sunday morning.
She was one of the first people in the store but couldn’t find big-and-tall pajamas to fit her husband. She wasn’t impressed with the after-Christmas discounts.
“To tell you the truth, there’s no difference between Christmas sales and after anymore,” said McGrath.
Shoppers were out before the snow at Roosevelt Field Mall on New York’s Long Island, Wall Street Strategies analyst Brian Sozzi said.
“Traffic is pretty solid as people are getting returns done before the storm,” he said.
Some stores were light on inventory. The Gap was missing many sizes of sweaters missing and items from the Gap Body pajama and underwear collection were sold out. Inventory at Guess and Macy’s looked picked over, he said.
Across the country, stores expanded their hours and in some cases bringing in fresh merchandise to sell.
Discount chain Target Corp., which opened at 7 a.m., is offering $10 off video games like “Just Dance 2,” 50 percent off many DVD and Blu-ray movies and 30 percent or more off toys, including Lego sets.
Toys R Us is touting a $50 gift card with any $299.99 Xbox 360 250GB System and a $20 gift card with any $149.99 Nintendo DSi or $169.99 DSiXL.
J.C. Penney had 75 percent off gourmet candy, 60 percent off lambskin leather jackets, from $300 to $120 and 25 percent off kitchen gadgets.
Kohl’s Inc., which opened at 5 a.m., offered specials until 1 p.m. including 50 percent to 60 percent off dress shirts for men.
Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at market research firm NPD Group, said strong after-Christmas sales would be icing on the holiday cake for retailers.
“They came into December having made money,” he said. “If December is prosperous, that will lead them to feel confident in 2011, and that’s really what this last week is all about.”
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)