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Retailers Make Final Pre-Christmas Push

New York – Retailers are making a final push to drive holiday sales this last weekend before Christmas.

Among the measures: a TV blitz by Best Buy, Walmart and other national chains with last-minute gift ideas; extended store hours and sales; and reminders by and other online-only merchants of pending Christmas delivery cut-offs.

The efforts follow a spate of severe winter weather and a massive Target credit card hack that could lead to a ho-hum holiday for retailers following record Thanksgiving sales.

According to the latest data from market research firm ShopperTrak, in-store retail sales for the week of Dec. 9 to Dec. 15 were down 0.8 percent while foot traffic plunged 20 percent year-over-year.

Much of the downturn could be attributed to severe wintry weather throughout the Midwest and Northeast last weekend that put a damper on a critical shopping period. Warren Chaiken, president/COO of national majap and CE distributor Almo Corp., said regional dealers “were hurt by the snow and ice, and I’m seeing them do unnatural promotional things right now due to the lost days, and that’s a shame.”

Homebound shoppers instead turned to the Internet. Online sales soared 41 percent last Saturday and Sunday, to $1.6 billion, according to market research firm comScore, continuing a trend toward weekend cyber shopping.

“One of the most interesting stories we are seeing this holiday season is the explosion in weekend online spending,” said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. “While we have seen solid growth during the days between Monday and Friday, weekend growth rates have surged to nearly four times what we’re seeing during the work weeks.”

Pam Goodfellow, consumer insights director for pollster Prosper Insights & Analytics, said a shorter holiday season with six less days between Thanksgiving and Christmas also drove consumers online. “Last-minute shoppers don’t have quite the breathing room they did last year when there were four full weekends,” she noted. Indeed, a joint survey with the National Retail Federation (NRF) showed that as of Dec. 9, fully 50 percent of shoppers were planning to do the remainder of their holiday shopping online, the highest percentage in the survey’s 11-year history.

This weekend, retailers including Best Buy, Sam’s Club and Toys“R”Us are looking to win back procrastinators with extended sales and store hours following today’s online order deadline for guaranteed Christmas deliveries. At Best Buy, all stores will be open from 7 a.m. to midnight today through Monday, and from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Pre-Christmas promotions include Apple iPhone 5s contract models starting at $125; GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition Action Camera and 16GB memory card for $400; $100 off all Apple MacBook Air models; and a 32-inch Insignia private-label 60Hz, 720p LED TV for $180, down from $200.

At Sam’s Club, a three-day “Holiday Open House” will feature 100 new gift items and lowered prices on smartphones and notebooks throughout the weekend. “Winter storms have forced most of the country to postpone holiday shopping,” said merchandise executive VP Charles Redfield, “so in the spirit of a snow make-up day, our doors are open to everyone this weekend to find exciting gifts at an amazing value.”

Sam’s Club sale items include contract Apple iPhone 5S and 5c contract models for $119 and $24, respectively; an Asus 11.6-inch Touch notebook bundle for $279, down from $349; and a 15.6-inch HP notebook for $299, down from $379.

And Toys“R”Us, in a final gambit to garner customers, will keep its stores open for 87 consecutive hours from 6 a.m. Saturday through 9 p.m. Christmas Eve. “We are offering customers extended, uninterrupted time in stores, providing them the opportunity to shop whenever is most convenient for them – whether early in the morning or late at night,” said stores and services executive VP Troy Rice.

RadioShack too is making a last stand, opening up a pop-up concept store by Manhattan’s busy Penn Station. The 2,000-square-foot shop joins two other RadioShack pop-up stores that opened earlier this fall in Times Square, and will offer extended weekday hours of 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. to capture procrastinating commuters.