Retailers stress 'value' to holiday shoppers

The deals are already calling you.

Take an extra 30 percent off plus $10 credit for every $50 spent. Any boot, 50 percent off. Choose from 100 toys for $10. Not good enough? How about 75 toys at $1 or less?

This holiday shopping season, in the midst of the longest economic downturn since the Depression, is shaping up as an emphasis on "value" dollars.

"(Consumers) will be looking for the right gift, rather than the most extravagant or expensive one," said Mashal Cohen, chief industry analyst for market research NPD Group Inc.

But don't expect the wild 75 percent off discounts of last year, when retailers got caught with an inventory backlog and were forced to take major markdowns to get the merchandise off the shelves.

Retailers this year have planned better and slimmed down inventory in expectation of a sluggish holiday season. By cutting down on the discounts, they can sell fewer items to make what they did in 2008.

"Once the most popular items are gone, retailers won't have anywhere to get them, so if there was ever a holiday season to buy early, this is it," said Tracy Mullin, president of the National Retail Federation, in a news release.

Forecasts are calling for a season that won't be great, but it's certainly going to look a lot better than last year's dismal performance.

Macy's, Wal-Mart, J.C. Penney and Kohl's last week all issued lower-than-expected guidance for the holiday season.

"Most retailers are very challenged right now," said Jerry Talamantes, spokesman for Dillard's. "But Dillard's is excited about the holiday season ahead of us. We have a value message to everything we offer."

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