The Saturday before Christmas is typically one of the biggest sales days of the season, but it's a little tricky this year because it falls on Christmas Eve, which is often not nearly as busy. Bottom line is that some retailers are looking at Saturday the 17th, not the 24th, as their last big chance to entice shoppers. That's why you're seeing all those "Super Saturday" promotions (and why mall parking lots are likely to be jammed). From the NYT:
"If you wait until the 24th, you have no time to recover," said Michael McNamara, vice president of research and analysis for MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, which tracks consumer spending. But not all stores are making the switch. And that is creating a good amount of confusion in the retail world. "It's chaotic," said Dan Biederman, president of the 34th Street Partnership, an organization in Midtown Manhattan that will help market the Saturday promotions for retailers. "The world seems to be split."
There's another reason some of the chains aren't waiting until next weekend: A sizable drop in sales after Thanksgiving. While the first couple of weeks in December are always soft, this year's numbers have been especially weak.
The cumulative drop from Thanksgiving-week sales in those weeks, of 2.4 percent, was the biggest since 2000, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. The Commerce Department said this week that retail sales in November, including online sales, came in lower than analysts had expected, rising just 0.2 percent to $399.3 billion, the smallest increase in five months. "That suggests we may not get quite as much momentum in the holiday-sales season as people were expecting," said Peter Buchanan, an economist at CIBC World Markets.
Nobody Knows Nothing Department: Holiday sales forecasts are notoriously unreliable, and the "retailers are getting nervous" angle is certainly not new. The only real numbers that count will come early next year when the chains report their fourth-quarter earnings.