Christmas in July? Salesmen hope so

In this struggling economy, just what will it take to get shoppers into stores? Summer clearance, up to 50, 60, even 70 percent off? Check. New back-to-school and fall merchandise? Check. Christmas decorations? Check.

Consumer spending didn't rebound this spring or early summer. So now, in July, retailers are rolling out late summer and early fall promotions, hoping to be first to entice shoppers.

"This year, many parents hope to begin back-to-school shopping early to spread the spending out over a longer period of time," said Phil Rist, executive vice president of strategic initiatives for BIGresearch, which surveyed consumers for the National Retail Federation.

Retailers' early entry into back-to-school — JCPenney launched its big Schooled in Style campaign last week — is perhaps a wise move as the federation's survey and others show many consumers are looking for bargains and will limit back-to-school shopping to just one to three stores.

"Retailers have to focus on value, promotions, coupons, bundling to try to get bang for the purchases," said Tony Torres, partner at independent research company Deloitte in Kansas City. "The overall tone with consumers is one of caution."

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