Bergdorf Goodman will set up TV sets in its men's clothing department this holiday season, offer children's book readings and showcase home merchandise such as frames and candles on the first floor instead of the seventh.
Proffitt's, an upscale department store chain that's part of Saks Inc., will turn to soothing holiday classic tunes like "Winter Wonderland," instead of loud contemporary music. It's also focusing on merchandise such as comforters and big sweaters and downplaying structured clothing like suits.
And Intimate Brands' Bath & Body Works is training employees in sweetening their sales pitch of new offerings, including its spa and aromatherapy line. Sales staff are now expected to engage shoppers in light conversation before demonstrating the merits of orange ginger oils and salt scrubs.
In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, many retailers are changing their holiday plans, hoping that a softer, more comforting approach will put consumers, who have been cutting their spending back for months, in the mood to buy once again. Amid anthrax scares and fears of more terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, retail executives acknowledge that consumers are jittery and that stores need to be more in sync with customers' needs.
"We want a more cozy Christmas. We want our customers to feel our store is a safe haven," said Robert Burke, vice president of fashion at Bergdorf Goodman.
"We just need to take the time to say 'hello.' Consumers are more sensitive these days," said Ken Montera, executive vice president of Bath & Body Works.
Other retailers including Target Stores Inc. and Home Depot Inc. said they are sticking to already-planned holiday strategies, which they feel are still appropriate. And teen retailer American Eagle Outfitters believes the holiday ad campaign it conceived last spring will resonate even more than expected with shoppers. The retailer's "Get Together" campaign, which will begin in mid-November, shows an ethnically diverse group of young people at home sharing the holidays together.
Consumers are pulling away from big-ticket luxury items and other discretionary purchases, and more toward cocooning merchandise, as they retreat to their homes. Sales of knitting needles and other arts and crafts, as well as home decor have picked up at stores including Michaels Stores Inc.
So far, some retailers are reporting some success with their new strategies.
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