Holiday shopping season ramps up
December seems to be flying by and if you haven't started that holiday shopping, you may want to get to it.
With Christmas just a couple of weeks away, most stores are a flurry of activity, but will merchants be seeing red by the time it's all over?
At the Chocolate Lab on Main Street in Bethlehem, owner Arlene Brockel says her holiday sales numbers are up 20 percent.
She says people are buying her tasty treats as fast as she can make them.
"Sales have been up. The streets have been packed. It's always a madhouse in here so we're happy," Brockel said.
Analysts say for some retailers, the holiday season can represent anywhere between 20–40% of their annual sales.
That's why merchants are working so hard to attract shoppers with deep discounts and attractive displays.
Vickie Greff of Blue Mountain Vineyards opened a kiosk in the Lehigh Valley Mall on midnight Black Friday.
She says she's counting on a good season. "It really helps you stay afloat especially in a retail situation."
Experts are predicting a four percent increase in sales this holiday season. It's partly because of when Thanksgiving fell this year.
Because it was early, merchants are getting almost a week extra between Thanksgiving and Christmas to attract shoppers.
Amanda Johnson, Director of Marketing at Lehigh Valley Mall says the extra time might just pay off. "Certainly that helps because it gives people more time to shop. Everyone is always starved for time during the holiday season and that extra time will help shoppers and retailers," Johnson says.
And with merchants competing with on line retailers, the incentives seem to be bringing in more sales.
Samantha Schwartz of the Downtown Bethlehem Association says people do seem to be buying more. "Basically, people are purchasing more items but not at a larger ticket price, so they're getting a lot more small items rather than just one larger one," says Schwartz.
Toni Snyder and Margie Greene of Walnutport say they are done with their shopping and the deals have helped. They say they've enjoyed the discounts and both started shopping on Black Friday.
Shopping site PriceGrabber.com says that Black Friday has turned into "Black Week," with sales starting earlier and deals extending later. PriceGrabber experienced a 14 percent year-over-year growth in traffic this year from Thanksgiving until Cyber Monday, showing that more consumers are using the internet for research, price comparison and purchasing gifts.
The National Retail Federation says it's all good news for retailers but we'll have to wait and see just what the outcome of the 2012 season will be.
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