- The Washington Times - Friday, December 27, 2002

Retailers opened doors early and slashed prices even further yesterday in a last-ditch effort to boost sales before the disappointing holiday-shopping season comes to a close.
The week between Christmas and the start of the new year has become a crucial time for retailers, who are trying to clear out seasonal inventory, boost their bottom lines and make room for new merchandise.
"Given that this was a weaker [season] makes this week after Christmas all the more important," said Michael Baker, director of research for the International Council of Shopping Centers.
Merchants hope shoppers will come in droves through the end of the year to cash in gift cards, exchange unwanted gifts and spend more cash on extra purchases while they are in the store.
Early in the season, some analysts were optimistic that shoppers would be out in full force. But economic worries, job uncertainty and the possibility of war with Iraq has resulted in lackluster sales.
The National Retail Federation estimated a 4 percent gain over holiday sales last year bringing in about $209 billion. Total sales from November and December are likely to be closer to a 3.5 percent gain, said Scott Krugman, an federation spokesman.
Despite a disappointing pre-Christmas season, retailers are banking on the final week of the year to make up for lost revenue. This week usually accounts for 10 percent of holiday sales, according to the shopping centers council.
The eye-popping discounts at the shops at Arundel Mills drew in bargain-hunting post-Christmas shoppers.
Phil Sokira took a break at a bench outside the Bed, Bath and Beyond store, with five bags sitting at his feet. Mr. Sokira, who usually shops online, says the post-holiday discounts were a deciding factor for his purchases yesterday.
"I start my shopping now," he said, pointing to two wooden reindeer decorations he bought for $10 each at Kirkland's. He plans to give them, originally $59.99 each, as gifts next year.
Kirkland's, a home-accessories store, offered a 75 percent discount off the lowest price on its Christmas merchandise. Dozens of other stores had much of the same offerings. Oneida Home Store advertised up to 50 percent off selected merchandise from yesterday until Jan. 26. Seasonal merchants such as A Christmas To Remember was clearing out its inventory with half-off savings on everything in the store.
Foggy Bottom resident Marlene Johnson shopped for discounted Christmas ornaments at the Hecht Co. department store in downtown Washington yesterday morning before hitting the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City in Arlington.
It is an annual tradition for Ms. Johnson. She has been purchasing ornaments for family and friends every year for about 25 years. By late yesterday morning, she had bought 16 ornaments that she planned to give away next year.
"You can usually get them for half price on the day after Christmas," she said.
The Fashion Centre was brimming with sales. The Gap sold a men's wool coat for $69, marked down from $128. A pair of men's wool pants had been marked down twice: From $49.50 to $29.99, and then the price was slashed again to $19.99.
At Nordstrom, a Jhane Barnes men's button-down shirt sold for $102.90, marked down from $155. Kenneth Cole Reaction jackets that originally sold for $155 were marked 33 percent off.
The Calendar Club sold calendars for half off. Most Christmas merchandise at the Hallmark store was also 50 percent off.
Some Pentagon City customers started shopping early. Romeo David, a Lexington Park, Md., resident, said he woke up his family at 5 a.m. to make the trek to Arlington to drop off visiting relatives in Crystal City and to shop.
At about 10 a.m., Mr. David and his family were considering a piece of computer equipment that would allow them to transfer their home movies to DVDs. One item sold for $99.99 after a $30 mail-in rebate.
"There are some good sales, if you can find them," Mr. David said.

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