Monday, December 1, 2008

How Low Can They Go?

This Thanksgiving, we did things a little differently at our house. Usually, we play late night charades after dinner Thursday and have a round robin tennis tournament on Friday. This year, we were with the other side of the family, and didn’t play any games at all. We spent a lot of time visiting on Thursday, slept late on Friday and went to see Transporter 3 at the mall in LA.

After the show, we stopped in a few stores to take the pulse of Black Friday in LA. Most crowded by far was the Nordstrom Rack. We went in looking for deals on jeans for my teenage daughter – preferably True Religion, though Joe’s Jeans or Lucky Brand would do. No big bargains to be had. On any of them. Even the deals being heavily promoted as bargains were not much different from their every-day-low-price prices. And the styles that were available were definitely not the hip ones.

Despite all the hype about markdowns, we didn’t see it at the Rack on Friday. Much to my daughter’s disappointment, we left with only a few long-sleeve T-shirts in hand and saved our money for another day. As the Sacramento Bee reported last week, "Even with the desperation discounting already, the shoppers who will save the most will do it by waiting until Sunday, December 21, when it reaches its peak," according to Strategic Resource Group, a retail consulting firm in New York.

My takeaway? Retailers are going to have a hard time selling off-trend merchandise this season. Even at a discount, we expect good stuff. So, merchants that took chances on a look or an item may get burned. Gap used to do this a lot, and mark down its way out of the inventory overhang.

Not this year. If it’s off-trend in any category, it’s going to sit on the shelf. People want the wii fit, not a wii wanna be. They want the brands they know and trust to make them feel taken care of, not knock offs which just remind them they're poorer.

This holiday, customers will line up and put up with a lot of hassle for the right goods at the right price. If you don’t have them, they may not buy what you do have…at any price.

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