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Holiday Shopping Season Officially Underway

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – Some stores in the Buffalo area opened as early as 5am Friday morning as the holiday shopping season officially got underway. But the "unofficial" start was several weeks ago.

Because Thanksgiving was so late this year, retailers have already held numerous sales to attract shoppers in the weeks before Thursday's holiday. While area shopping malls have been jammed the past few weekends, Rebecca Marion of the state Retail Council says retailers remain cautious.

"I think that retailers are expecting this to be a challenging holiday season," Marion said. "But they're feeling somewhat optimistic because of higher consumer confidence in October and November.

With more than half of annual sales occurring during the holiday season for many retailers, stores may be tempted to slash prices to attract shoppers. But Arun Jain warns that this tactic could backfire on retailers. Jain is a professor of marketing at the University at Buffalo. He says if a store sells its merchandise for 60 percent off, consumers will assume that they're being gouged at other times.

Jain also says there are no products like Tickle-Me-Elmo to create a frenzy this year. But Rebecca Marion of the Retail Council says there are still some hot items out there.

"Clothing seems to be a real hot seller, along with home decor," she said.

Marion says the Barbie "Rapunzel" doll is popular with girls this year while boys are asking for Playstation items.

Interestingly, the Friday after Thanksgiving was once the busiest shopping day of the year for retailers. But no more. In recent years, the weekend before Christmas actually ranks higher in terms of dollars spent.

Jain says "e-tailers" like Amazon.com should fare better than their bricks and mortar competitors. He says Amazon's 30 percent discount on items, combined with free shipping and no sales tax, makes it attractive to consumers.