By Kelli B. Grant
Consumers have 170 shopping days left before Christmas, but to find the best sales, you may need to start today.
Retailers have already said they plan to scale back holiday deals, reports The Wall Street Journal. Faced with higher costs from manufacturers and dismal consumer spending projections, they have cut inventory with a plan to sell fewer goods at higher prices, says Jeff Green, an independent retail consultant. “In the last several years, retailers have focused on inventory control, making sure they don’t over-buy for the season,” he says. “They’re getting a much better understanding of what selling and what’s not.”
Consumers are missing out on what were of the earliest holiday deals in past years. Last year, Sears, K-Mart and Toys R Us had all started holiday savings clubs by this time — Toys R Us on June 16, Sears and K-Mart on July 2 — offering consumers a 3% bonus on whatever they saved in store accounts between now and fall. This year, none have announced programs so far. A spokesman for Toys R Us says the store will not be repeating the program this year because shoppers expressed more interest in layaway and other promotions. (Sears did not respond to requests for comment.)
But there is still a chance that retailers will, like the Grinch, relent and back the Christmas deals. “If things are not discounted, spending will be down,” Green says. Stores may be holding off until late August to see how the back-to-school spending plays out. If it’s not as good as they hoped, they may put more holiday deals on the table, he says.
While the retailers are playing wait-and-see, shoppers can, too. Start stashing away cash in a high-yield savings account to offset holiday bills, and draft an early list of potential gifts and recipients. Summer sales have been plentiful and state sales tax holidays are approaching, which could help you cross a few items off early.