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Winter Storm Could Curtail Last-Minute Shopping

12/19/2008 02:58:00 PM Eastern

New York — In the final indignity of an otherwise dismal holiday selling season, a major winter storm hit much of the Midwest and Northeast on the eve of the last weekend before Christmas.

The storm, which extended from the central Plains to the mid- and north Atlantic coast, could further curtail sorely needed sales for consumer electronics and other retailers.

Merchants traditionally count on the final days before Christmas for a resurgence in sales following blowouts on Black Friday weekend. But this pre-Christmas weekend may be more critical than most: According to a poll completed yesterday by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and BIGresearch, consumers have only finished about 65 percent of their holiday shopping on average, while some 44.5 million haven't yet started.

“With so much shopping left to do, the weekend before Christmas will be one of the most important periods of the year for retailers,” said NRF president/CEO Tracy Mullin.

NRF anticipates that retailers will mount “incredible” last-ditch promotions to entice procrastinators, and an informal survey of leading CE chains’ Web sites suggests that prices on select products are returning to Black Friday levels for the weekend.