Retailers in the Pittsburgh region have their fingers crossed that business will pick up in the days leading to the New Year after disappointing sales figures leading up to Christmas.
“After Christmas sales are going to be extremely important to retailers because the holiday season wasn’t as strong as they hoped, and as a result, they want to get us in the stores and keep us there spending money,” said Duquesne University marketing professor Audrey Guskey.
Retailers are trying to rally from a Black Friday that frankly didn’t put their businesses in the black; sales the day after Thanksgiving were off 3 percent from a year ago. In 2012 holiday retails sales overall were up 3.5 percent from the previous year, but according to Guskey, this year businesses will be “lucky to hit 3 percent” above last year’s holiday season.
To reach that 3 percent increase, Guskey said retailers want people coming with exchanges and returns and gift cards because the key is to get them into the stores, “and once we’re there we’re going to spend some money. So if it’s a gift certificate that we got in the stocking for Christmas, then we might be likely in that story and spending money for them because as all of us know if we have a gift certificate for $25 we’ll probably spend 50 or a hundred.”
According to Guskey, the slow holiday sales should not be a surprise because 2013 has been down overall.
“Consumers have been very thrifty," Guskey said. "Like Santa, they made their list, they checked it twice, they watched what they were buying, and the majority of people — they kept to this — they said they weren’t going to spend as much as last year or maybe about the same which meant retailers weren’t going to get any kick this holiday season from spending.”
Guskey said one bright move by retailers was to take advantage of apps on smart phones “that allowed us to get some discounts and bargains even while we’re in the store shopping.
Retailers became very involved with ‘m-commerce’ and mobile devices and shoppers. So that allowed us whether we were shopping in a Kohl’s, or in a T.J. Maxx or a K-Mart to all of a sudden, across our phone we get a text message or email that there’s a sale.