NEW YORK -- Turkey, schmerky. Where are the bargains?
Many Americans woke at the crack of dawn Friday to pack into stores for a post-Thanksgiving tradition: getting a running start for the present-buying season.
At a KB Toys in Philadelphia, store clerk Karen Kalbacher, 23, already felt "beaten up" by 6 a.m. after handing out plastic bags for shoppers.
"It's like being a lineman. We were slammed into each other. They were snatching bags faster than I could hand them out," she said. "You work in a toy store a couple of years, you hate the holidays."
Hundreds of people already in line rushed in when the toy store doors opened at 5 a.m., snapping up early-morning bargains like the $80 scooter on sale for $29.99 and a $45 Teckno "robot puppy" selling for $19.99.
Linda Corrado, 31, of Northeast Philadelphia had a Teckno in one of her several bags as she strolled out of the store shortly after 6 a.m. She had spent $304 at the toy store and, like most shoppers, was heading straight to another store.
"It's a high," she said of the early-morning buying frenzy. "I probably do end up spending more because I get that excitement."
That was music to retailers' ears.
"So far, it's a lot heavier than last year already," store manager Pat Moran said. "You never know from year to year what the customers are going to buy."
Confronted with signs of sluggish consumer spending, retailers nationwide are banking on a combination of discounts and intense advertising to woo shoppers this holiday season.
"Christmas will be decent but not spectacular," said Kurt Barnard, publisher of Barnard's Retail Trend Report, based in Upper Montclair, N.J.
Barnard and other analysts expect about a 3 percent to 4 percent sales increase at stores this holiday shopping season, compared with 7 percent last year. Even online sales are slowing, with sales projections in December of $11.6 billion -- up from last year's $7 billion, according to Jupiter Research. In previous years, holiday sales were known to double or triple.
After ringing up total sales of $186 billion on such items as DVD players and pashmina shawls last Christmas, retailers are less bullish this year. Rising fuel prices and the stock market's volatility helped make consumers much more cautious about spending on nonessentials.
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