Only 23 Shopping Days Until Christmas

Douglas A. McIntyre

In the torrent of data and media coverage about sales discounts, industry success (or lack thereof), Thanksgiving shopping activity, Black Friday results and Cyber Monday winners and losers, one fact has been lost. The battle for revenue and market share between now and Christmas is when many of the winners and losers are determined.

Data from FedEx, UPS and the U.S. Postal Service show that the busiest shipping day of the year falls on December 14 or 15. This means, no matter how much e-commerce business is done between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, there is still a great deal to come.

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When the National Retail Federation announced Thanksgiving holiday data, it made the fact clear that only a small fraction of Americans were done with their shopping:

Strong deals and promotions encouraged more consumers to shop over the holiday weekend. More than 154 million consumers will shop over Thanksgiving weekend, up from 151 million shoppers in 2015. NRF's annual Thanksgiving weekend survey conducted by Prosper Insights found that 44 percent went online and 40 percent shopped in-store. Only 9 percent of consumers have finished their holiday shopping.

Between now and Christmas the frenzy of sales events and discount promotions will die down somewhat, but the bloodiest hand-to-hand combat among retailers is hardly over.

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One of the tactics retailers will use is deeper and deeper discounts as the chance to draw revenue shrinks as the days pass. The theory is that the need for retailers to offload inventory and drive their top lines is bad for them and good for consumers. Without any question, the consumer part of the equation is accurate. J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (JCP) is pushing discounts as high as 30% and free shipping for as little as $49. J.C. Penney net income ratios to revenue have been razor thin recently, after a number of quarters of losses. How much thinner can they get?

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Sears Holdings Corp.'s (SHLD) Kmart is also discounting some items as much as 30%. Sears stores are equally aggressive, with an offer for 25% discounts for shoppers who spend over $75 on some items — online only.

Mighty Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) also offers a long list of shipping, credit card and discount deals. Even at its size, the retailer is not immune from the need to discount and keep or drive up its market share in a jam-packed industry.

23 days until Christmas, with every retailer clawing its way forward.

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