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'Tis the Season for Prime Shopping - 2002-12-04

The holiday shopping season in the United States officially began the day after Thanksgiving and lasts until New Year’s. Retailers are looking at one of shortest holiday shopping seasons in years, because this year Thanksgiving fell late in November. Brian Purchia has more.

For retailers, the holiday season can be the difference between a profit or a loss for the entire year. So they are doing everything possible to entice their customers to spend. Allen Marcus works for the toy store FAO Schwartz.

“We're just going all out right now. The mood seems to be really positive."

This means sales, and lots of them. Mark Vitner is a retail analyst and he says some stores are cutting prices by up to 70 percent.

“I don't think it's possible to pay full price. I'm sure there are some retailers out there who aren't discounting at all but almost everyone is discounting aggressively."

But with the threat of a war with Iraq, a shaky economy and fears of job losses, retailers are nervous about how much consumers may be willing to spend.

“Because the economy is the way that it is, and we are in the situation that we are, we are a little bit more conscious of what we spend, and how we buy and what we do.”

However, early returns show that the big sales and promotions may be working. Economist Michael Niemira

"Well, the season got off to a strong start actually, and this is good news for the industry, and for the whole season in fact."

Wal-Mart set a single day record last Friday with 1.4 billion dollars in sales. And for all retailers, sales for the 2 days after Thanksgiving rose 10.9 per cent from last year. It is still early, but many shoppers like these have already bought presents for their family or friends. And this may be a good indicator for retailers and the U.S. economy as a whole.

“We go overboard for our children and our grandchildren." "They are not going to get shortchanged." "We're spending too much probably."

Economists are looking to the holidays for a sign of a possible economic turnaround. And a good holiday shopping season might mean a better 2003 for everyone.