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American holiday shoppers not willing to spend without deals

Published: Monday, Nov. 25, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT
A shopper carries Macy's bags while crossing an intersection outside Macy's on Saturday, Nov. 23 in New York.

NEW YORK (AP) – This holiday season, Americans may not spend their green unless they see more red.

Despite signs that the economy is improving, big store chains like Walmart and Kohl’s don’t expect Americans to have much holiday shopping cheer unless they see bold, red signs that offer huge discounts. As a result, shoppers are seeing big sales events earlier and more often than in previous holiday seasons.

Retailers are trying to lure shoppers like Marissa Anwar, who has done more bargain hunting compared with last year.

The operations consultant, who lives in Toronto and New York City, said the economy “hasn’t been great,” and she’s lost clients. She cut her shopping budget to $2,800 from last year’s $4,000.

“I was a former ‘spend-aholic,’’’ said Anwar, 29. “Now, I want to make sure I have the money before I spend it.”

It’s a problem retailers know all too well. Since the recession began in late 2007, stores have offered financially strapped Americans bigger price cuts just to get them into stores. But discounts eat away at profits.

Walmart and Kohl’s are among more than two dozen major chains that lowered profit outlooks for either the quarter or the year.

On Friday, Walmart started matching or beating the prices that certain competitors like Best Buy are advertising for some toys and electronics for the day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday.

Retailers’ adjustments come, even though there are indications the economy is recovering.

But so far, the improvements haven’t been enough to shore up consumer confidence.

“Stores know that they are well into a fight,” said Ken Perkins, president of the research firm RetailMetrics. “The vast majority of consumers are distressed.”

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