Stephanie Snow, left, and Nichole Fox of Lakeridge, Va., shop for deals the day after Christmas at the Tysons Corner mall in Tysons Corner, Va.
(Photo: Natalie DiBlasio, USA TODAY)
The day after Christmas is for more than returning gifts this year. Retailers are ratcheting up the sales in an attempt to lure customers and make up for a slow shopping season.
Four big 75% off signs cover the windows of Old Navy. More 75% off signs at H&M and Forever 21. 50% off Armani Exchange and Abercrombie and Fitch. 60% off at Gap.
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There is hardly a spot in Tysons Corner Center, a mall in Virginia, where you can stand without seeing a sale sign.
Sales growth this holiday season is likely to be the weakest since 2009: 3.2%, says Chris Christopher, director of consumer economics at IHS Global Insight.
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December numbers still aren't in but, Christopher says, "They're not looking good."
The state of the economy held consumers back before Christmas, and now retailers are trying to compensate.
"The real economy spoke this holiday season," says Brian Sozzi, CEO of Belus Capital Advisors, a stock market research firm. "Consumers are not financially strong enough to go out there and spend willy-nilly," Sozzi says. "The holiday season was very much an extension of what we saw all of 2013. If the customer didn't need to shop, they didn't go out and shop."
But discounts of 70% and 80% may be high enough to interest even the most frugal shoppers.
Rachel Licklider, 24, Centreville, Va., is browsing the racks at Ann Taylor Loft. The store is advertising 50% off the entire purchase. "A good deal," Licklider says.
She has been collecting coupons for after-Christmas sales and has a long list of stores on her list. Crazy traffic and near-impossible parking didn't stand in her way.
"Macy's, Nordstrom's, Dick's," she says, ticking off where she's headed. "I am just looking around for clothes for myself."
A big change this year: coupons that are valid only on sale and clearance items.
"With some of these discounts, we are seeing the lowest prices of the year," says Brad Wilson, editor in chief of BradsDeals.com. "It's very different. Usually sale items are excluded from coupons."
ShopperTrak, which analyzes retail shopping trends, predicted that post-Christmas markdowns would drive store traffic on the day after Christmas and Saturday.
"Many people who have the day after Christmas off of work will be out shopping for end-of-season deals," said ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin.
Michelle Polito, 48, of Arlington, Va., is shopping with her husband, Bobby, 47, at Macy's. Bobby's arms are full of clothing as Michelle holds up a pair of pants.
"We are actually Christmas shopping, because we haven't celebrated yet," Polito says. Their daughter and son-in-law dance with the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago and won't arrive until Monday. "We waited to shop because we thought it would be less stressful and more sales."
So far, "nothing remarkable, but we just started," she says, looking at her husband as he shifts his weight under his armload of clothes.
Polito had Macy's coupons. "We are going to use a $25-off-a-$100-purchase coupon. That plus the markdowns? It's a good deal."
Nichole Fox, 25, and Stephanie Snow, 34, of Lakeridge, Va., are disappointed in Target's sale. "It was mostly just Christmas stuff," Snow says.
The two have already hit Kohl's and Gap and are now digging through piles of clothes at Old Navy.
"The sales actually aren't great," Snow says, "but it got us in the door."