Even if you re not> celebrating Hannukah, there s a good reason to wrap up your holiday shopping before the last light on the menorah goes out. The big holiday discounts retailers have been rolling out since early October could dry up in the next week as Hanukkah begins and inventories drop.
The Jewish holiday begins at sundown on Dec. 1 this year, its earliest start in 20 years. And though just 5% of Americans celebrate the holiday, retail analysts say an early Hanukkah could spell trouble for Christmas shoppers: Thanks to consumers extra holiday spending in late November, retailers may cut back on big discounts in December.
In previous years, the timing of the eight-day holiday -- the start of which varies annually based on the lunar calendar -- hasn t created a noticeable spike in retail-sales patterns, says John Squire, the chief strategy officer for web-analytics company IBM Coremetrics. But analysts say this year s extra-early arrival, coupled with the broader trend of early discounting and tight inventories could alter 2010 holiday sales trends. Whether because of Hannukah or simple frugality, Black Friday sales have already proved a boon to stores: An estimated 212 million people shopped Thursday through Sunday, up 9% over last year, according to the National Retail Foundation. Spending rose, too, with the average shopper paying $365.34--6% more than in 2009.
An early Hannukah has the potential to boost stores November sales 3% to 4%, says Jeff Green, an independent retail consultant. As it is, retailers already have less overstock compared with previous years, And coupled with already strong sales, stores have less incentive to slash prices on anything that wasn t already headed for the clearance rack. (Green s family, for one, bought gifts before Black Friday for the first few nights of Hannakuh, and the rest on Cyber Monday for delivery.) The last two years, consumers could count on a steady stream of December deals, right through Christmas, but not this year.
December deals are likely to hang on through Dec. 9, the last day of Hanukkah and roughly two weeks before Christmas, says Andrew Lissak, the chief executive of marketing company Offerwise. Some discounts will linger, mostly in categories that aren t selling well, and shoppers heading out after Dec. 9 are more likely to find more so-called Friends and Family -type discounts deals sent out by retailers to customers via email or social media-- in the neighborhood of 30%, Lissak says.
But if you re a dedicated procrastinator, don t lose hope. If consumers finish shopping earlier than expected, stores may sweeten their offerings. That s far from impossible: A recent PriceGrabber.com survey that found that 43% of consumers planned to finish their shopping this week, in which case, some retailers will likely push new discounts to keep people coming back. And if, say, sweaters or a nice coat are on your holiday gift-buying list (or your own wish-list) you re in luck apparell didn t sell well earlier this month and is more likely to be on sale well into December.