Stores prep for crush of last-minute Super Saturday shoppers

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Kohl’s To Open Stores For 170 Hours Straight.

Thanksgiving shoppers line up at a Kohl’s department store in Sherwood, Arkansas, in this AP file photo. WASHINGTON • Kohl’s on Tuesday announced a bid to win the holiday shopping dollars of procrastinators and night owls: The department store plans to stay open for 170 straight hours, starting Thursday at 7 a.m. and wrapping up at 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

Kohl’s KSS 0.76% will keep its doors open for more than seven days straight before Christmas in a move that shows just how tough the holiday season has been for retailers. This is not the first year Kohl’s has stayed open around-the-clock in the run-up to the holidays, but the chain is getting an even earlier jump on the offering this year, which starts on Dec. 17 after launching on Dec. 19 the previous year. While Kohl’s made big strides in its e-commerce over Black Friday weekend, saying it had its biggest online days that week, it is a department store that relies heavily on apparel sales (Kohl’s gets 60% of it business from apparel), a segment that has been hurting because of the record mild temperatures in the Eastern half of the country since Thanksgiving. Super Saturday, the busiest shopping day before Christmas, also happens to be the last day for guaranteed-by-Christmas delivery for many merchants. (Danny Johnston, AP File) CLEVELAND, Ohio — With the Christmas countdown ticking into single digits, retailers are extending their sales, deepening their discounts and keeping their stores open ’round the clock to pull still-reluctant shoppers into their stores for Super Saturday. What’s more, Amazon AMZN -0.45% has been enjoying a banner holiday season, despite valiant efforts by Target TGT -1.49% and Walmart WMT 0.37% and Kohl’s, among others, to improve their e-commerce.

Record-shattering warmth throughout the Northeast — including the warmest temperatures in 120 years in Cleveland — have hit retailers especially hard, said Bill Kirk, chief executive and co-founder of Weather Trends International Inc., a business weather analytics company in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. But the marathon hours also likely reflect the intensity of the fight for shoppers’ dollars this holiday season, especially for a chain that saw only a modest sales increase in the previous quarter as unseasonably warm weather weighed on sales across the industry for items such as coats and boots. Sales are especially slow when compared to the epic cold and snow last November, which drove sales of cold winter merchandise up 50 percent to 500 percent at full margins, he said. Penney JCP -0.45% for instance opened stores at 3 p.m. on Black Friday, showing that retailers have been willing to sacrifice some of their profit margin to win sales.

The big losers are Northeast winter merchandise firms and retailers whose stores are concentrated in the Northeast, but the winners are consumers who are saving 40 percent on heating bills, home improvement centers that specialize in outdoor projects, restaurants and movie theaters. Gregg Welter, the district manager for Kohl’s stores in the Washington, D.C., region, said his stores were busier in the wee hours of the morning last year than he expected they’d be.

Kohl’s reported comparable sales rose 1% last quarter, a performance it is under pressure to improve on if it wants to convince investors its turnaround has legs. The International Council of Shopping Centers estimates that with an average of 44 percent of their holiday shopping left to do, 112.8 million shoppers will hit stores and shopping centers on Saturday to shop, dine, see a movie and/or attend a holiday event.

The strategy seems a bit counterintuitive at a moment when many retailers are increasingly counting on their websites to cater to customers who want to shop at odd hours. For example, stores such as Best Buy, Sears and Dick’s Sporting Goods kicked off their in-store Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving Day, but closed for several hours overnight before picking up the action again early Friday morning. We have one day of ‘cold’ weather this Saturday, but that can’t move three months of excess inventory.” — Best Buy is offering free expedited two-day shipping on select products through 9:30 a.m. It is the time of year when shoppers begin to get anxious about whether they have enough gifts and whether the goods they ordered online will arrive in time.

The retailer has also trumpeted its “buy online, pick up in store” program and its revamped mobile site, which it says should make it easier to browse and buy online. Customers who buy those items as gifts can give the recipients instructions on how to redeem their free one-on-one appointments with a Geek Squad Agent. — Fannie May Confections Brands, which has a chocolate factory and store in North Canton, has a “buy two, get one free” offer on pre-wrapped boxes of chocolates valued at $24.99 each, through Christmas Eve. — Ikea is taking 50 percent off all soft toys on Saturday and Sunday, plus making a $1 donation to children’s education through UNICEF and Save the Children for every soft toy purchased.

Kirk, of WeatherTrends, said: “Retailers have so much excess inventory they will be giving away until mid-Spring… furthering the pain of three quarters in a row of all the wrong weather — record warm Fall, Winter, and then cold Spring.” “We don’t think we get the weather back in sync with retailers’ selling seasons until Summer next year, which will be hot/dry in the North with a positively epic 2016 hurricane season in the south.”

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