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Poor Retail Sales Could Mean Bigger Deals


Department stores will have to drop prices to get consumers through the doors this holiday season, experts say — earlier opening hours just won’t cut it.

While October sales were buoyant, helped by winter sales, retails figures for November and December are expected to be about half over last year. The National Retail Federation says total retail spending is expected to rise just 2.8% through December — significantly less than the 5.2% spike in spending last year.

These lackluster predictions mean department stores will have to compete for your dollar and – in an effort to lure consumers and appease shareholders –they will need to have some headline grabbing bargains to tempt people through their doors.

“Overall, I believe we will see better sales this holiday season,” says Odysseas Papadimitriou, CEO and co-founder of CardHub.com in Arlington, Va. “Retailers will use the better sales to try to counteract the negative effects of uncertainty about the economy, low consumer confidence and the persistently high unemployment rate.” But there’s a downside to any rush by retailers to be the first with their bumper discounts. “Black Friday itself will be worse than last year,” says Jeff Green, an independent retail analyst based in Phoenix, Az. “With the sales season starting in September it just dilutes the importance of Black Friday.” Green says holiday spending will be flat this year, or up 1% in a “best case scenario.”

Retailers are already trying to get a head start on Black Friday. Target, Macy’s, and Kohl’s have all said they would open for the first time at midnight on Thanksgiving, which Papadimitriou and Green say could create a domino effect of smaller stores across the country trying to beat the big stores to the punch. As Pay Dirt previously reported, for some stores the sales never end.

But some experts say never say never: Consumers might rally. “Our forecasts are not terrible,” says Kathy Grannis, an NRF spokeswoman. “A 2.8% for November and December increase is a very real look at what retailers can expect. We had a particularly strong Black Friday last year. At the end of the holiday season retailers were in awe that consumers had so much spending power.”


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      The Coroners and Justice Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on 14 January 2009. Clause 152 of the Bill provides for the Data Protection Act 1998 to be amended to include a number of new provisions on data sharing. Those provisions include a section which creates a broad general power enabling any ‘designated authority’ to make an ‘information sharing order’, which is to say an order which enables ‘any person to share information which consists of or includes personal data’ (new section 50A(1)). The relevant designated authorities’ are ‘appropriate Ministers’ (i.e. Secretaries of State, the Treasury and Ministers in charge of government departments); Scottish Ministers; Welsh Ministers and a Northern Ireland Department (new section 50A(2)). Whilst these broad powers are subject to a number of limitations including those provided for under new sections 50C, 50A(4) and 50A(6), this has not prevented concerns being expressed as to the potential risks entailed upon these new provisions. Most recently, in an interview with the Guardian (14 February 2009), theВ British Medical Association’sВ Chairman, Hamish Meldrum, confirmed that he was ‘extremely concerned’ about these new data sharing powers,В not least because they would potentially enable Ministers to allow patient data to be shared not merely within the NHS but also with other ministries and even private companies. Mr Meldrum said that theВ trust between doctors and patients would be destroyed if the Bill became law as it stands. The new powers embodied in clause 152 of the Coroners and Justice Bill follow in the wake of the development of another significant and controversial data sharing scheme under which the medical records of everyone in England are to be uploaded onto a national database, known as the Spine.
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  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.