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Watch November Sales for December Deals

Watch out for the stores that posted poor retail sales in November, experts say: They will be the place to go for bargains in December.

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While same-store sales rose 3.1% in November, in-line with market expectations, major retailing giants like Target (TGT), Kohl’s (KSS) and J.C. Penney (JCP) had disappointing results, according to data released today from Thomson Reuters. With less than four weeks left until the holidays, experts say these stores will look to play catch-up by increasing their deals and discounts. “Better deals will be found on the key chains that missed the mark,” says Odysseas Papadimitriou, founder of CardHub.com.

So which stores will offer the best discounts? Edgar Dworsky, the founder of ConsumerWorld.org, suggests Kohl’s and J.C. Penney. These are department stores that still have plenty of merchandise to sell ahead of the holidays and will be keen to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack with splashier deals, Dworksy says. “They will be advertising coupons and bucks-back offers to get people in the stores,” he says.

At Kohl’s which opened its doors at midnight on Black Friday, comparable-store sales fell 6.2% although analysts expected a rise of 2%. J.C. Penney saw a 2% decline in same-store sales when analysts projected a 1.6% drop. The retailer said its decision not to open at midnight as its rivals had on Black Friday hurt business and that “sales remained soft in-store throughout the holiday weekend.”

Dworsky also recommends keeping an eye out for “Black Friday II” sales at Sears and Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart and Sears have yet to post their November sales data, but he says they traditionally make a second push with discounts in December. Macy’s will also be flagging bigger bargains, he says. “Through Monday, Macy’s is already advertising a ‘Friends and Family’ sale with a 25% off coupon and they only do that once or twice a year,” he says.

Target Corp. is another target for continued holiday bargains, experts say, after November retail sales rose just 1.8%  – the low end of its expectations. Target, Kohl’s and J.C. Penney are among the stores that got the message from cautious consumers, Papadimitriou says. “They will do their best to lure consumers with deals until the end of the year.”

On the other hand, retailers that posted strong November sales such as Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue aren’t expected to extend or increase their sales offers this month, according to Papadimitriou. “The chains that did well have gained confidence and should not be expected to make deeper cuts on their profit margins,” he says.”

Among the rest, however, experts say the competition for holiday shoppers is already intensifying. Glenn Murphy, chief executive of Gap Inc., signaled a Black Christmas for retailers. “This is just the start of the holiday selling season and we expect December to remain fiercely competitive and highly promotional,” he said in a statement Thursday. He has good reason, Papadimitriou says. November sales for Gap North America fell 2% after rising 6% last year; Old Navy North America was down 7% after increasing 7% last year.

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