Deck the halls - holiday retail push begins


POSTED: Thursday, October 23, 2008

Anticipating a tougher economic climate this holiday season, many retailers in Hawaii already have begun putting out their Christmas merchandise in an effort to get a jump-start on sales.





Delving into pocketbooks

        Holiday 2008 spending forecast by U.S. consumers:


» Average holiday-related shopping per person: $832.36


» 40.2% will start holiday shopping before Halloween


» 69.7% plan to shop at discount stores


» 58% plan to shop at department stores


» 37.3% plan to shop at clothing stores


» 37.3% plan to shop at electronics stores


Source: NRF: 2008 Holiday Consumer Intentions & Actions Survey



Among them are department stores such as Macy's, Sears, Wal-Mart, Kmart, Pier 1 Imports, Lowe's and Home Depot.

Smaller boutiques, like Red Pineapple at Ward Centers, also have brought out Christmas-themed items this month.

“;Some general principles of retail come into play here,”; said Carol Pregill, president of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii. “;Merchandise won't sell if it's in the stockroom. The reality is that it's going to be a difficult holiday.”;

Many retailers order the holiday merchandise to keep in stock at least six to nine months in advance, Pregill said.

“;We need to keep the merchandise turning and the registers ringing,”; she said. “;You're looking at more promotions and value-added programs this year.”;

U.S. consumers plan to spend an average of $832.36 on holiday-related shopping this year, up a paltry 1.9 percent over last year's $816.69, according to the National Retail Federation's 2008 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey.

This represents the lowest increase in planned consumer spending since the survey began in 2002.

About 40.2 percent start holiday shopping before Halloween, which is consistent with years past, according to NRF, and retailers are taking note.

Whereas Thanksgiving used to be the hallmark of the holiday sales season in the past, that start date is pushed earlier every year.

Retailers say they know consumers will be more price-conscious this year, and thus will be shopping earlier.

Home Depot in Hawaii put out its holiday merchandise, complete with outdoor lights, reindeer, trees, wreaths and topiaries, in the first week of October, a week earlier than the previous year.

“;What we've learned over the years is that customers like to plan ahead,”; said regional merchandising manager Mike Rivera. “;They're looking at what's available, and at pricing and assortment.”;

Rivera says customers already have been buying, and that Home Depot has replenished some of its holiday shelves.

In stores, Home Depot is offering about 500 holiday items this year, and up to 900 holiday items online, with the energy-efficient outdoor LED lights as one of the top sellers so far.

Wal-Mart opened its Christmas Shops the week of Oct. 6 nationwide in response to its own holiday shopping intentions survey this year - which found that consumers were planning to shop earlier and spend less this year.

Nalani Holliday, owner of Red Pineapple, brought out some holiday-themed items last week, and will bring out more in upcoming weeks. For her business, which specializes in gourmet and unique items for gift baskets, the holidays are a big boost.

“;People are already responding,”; she said. “;People are getting excited.”;

At Pier 1 Imports, nutcrackers already are standing in window displays, along with Christmas ornaments and decorations - which take up considerably more square footage than the Halloween items.

  Holiday items usually come out at the same time as Halloween, according to Jeffrey Trinh, Pier 1 Ward's store manager. More items, including holiday entertaining dishware and other gift items, will be available soon.

Though it is a tough economy, Trinh said: “;I think people are still going to give gifts, decorate for Christmas and get ornaments for their trees.”;

Beth Tom, president of Price Busters Hawaii, also has stocked the Price Busters stores and her new Seasonal Store at Ward and Windward Mall with Christmas ornaments and decor.

Tom said sales are doing better than she expected this early in the year.

Price Busters is well positioned, given that more shoppers will be looking for value in today's tough economy - nearly 70 percent plan to shop at discount stores, according to NRF.

The smaller Seasonal Stores at Ala Moana and Kapolei will have full Christmas setups by the first week of November, said Tom.

Most major malls in Hawaii, including Ala Moana Center and Pearlridge Center, will launch their holiday promotions in November.