After Christmas begins before holiday

Many stores start discounts early amid disappointing sales

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It’s beginning to look a lot like … the day after Christmas?

On the day before Christmas, retailers turned shoppers’ attention to the day after the holiday.

Amazon.com already was offering “after Christmas” deals of up to 70 percent off clothes and 60 percent off some electronics. Old Navy is running TV ads that its “after-holiday sale starts early” with discounts of up to 75 percent off. And CVS was selling a wine cabinet for $10 off at $39.99 and three fleece throws for $9.99 on Christmas Eve.

Heather Nadler, 38, stopped by the CVS in Decatur, Ga., on Tuesday, searching for stuffed animals for her children. But she still plans to hit up sales after Christmas.

“I’ll probably start shopping for me at that point,” she said.

Stores usually wait until after Christmas to offer discounts of up to 70 percent or more on holiday merchandise that didn’t sell. But Americans who are still worried about the economy have held tightly to their purse strings this year, and store sales have fallen for the past three consecutive weeks.

The pre-Christmas deals come as retailers are feeling pressure to attract Americans into stores during the final week of what’s typically the busiest shopping period of the year. The two-month stretch that begins on Nov. 1 is important because retailers can make up to 40 percent of their annual sales during that time.

Sales at U.S. stores dropped 3.1 percent to $42.7 billion for the week that ended on Sunday compared with the same week last year, according to ShopperTrak, which tracks data at 40,000 locations.

Some analysts doubt the discounts will be enough to save the season. Research firm Retail Metrics predicts December revenue in stores open at least one year, a key retail metric, will rise 2.8 percent, slightly higher than last year’s 2.6 percent increase.

Ken Perkins, the president of Retail Metrics, said reports suggest that the final weekend before Christmas “did not generate the final crush of shoppers necessary to save the holiday season.”

At least one shopper isn’t impressed by the early deals. David Arnold, 43, who works in IT at a bank, said despite earlier “after Christmas” sales, he plans to go out after Christmas because he’s been eyeing a 55-inch TV at Wal-Mart.

“For a 55-inch, the lowest I saw of a good brand name was $1200,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I’ll find a better deal after Christmas, I want to pay like $800.”