WMU News

Strong economy puts retailers in Christmas spirit

Nov. 22, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- Retailers are in a good mood this holiday shopping season, says a small business retailing expert in WMU's Department of Family and Consumer Sciences. Barbara J. Frazier, an instructor who teaches in the merchandizing major and textile and apparel studies major, says retailers expect to see a 4 to 6 percent increase in sales this year.

"The economy and employment are still good and the stock market is performing well," Frazier says. "The forecast is for consumers to be big spenders in ordinary gift-giving categories like apparel, toys and music."

But she notes that the growing popularity of alternative shopping methods such as direct mail, catalogs, specialty stores and the Internet are affecting the way big retail chains do business, particularly in the way they market their products before Christmas and the way they promote and stock their stores after Dec. 25.

"The traditional holiday shopping season ­ the day after Thanksgiving to the day before Christmas ­ is a thing of the past," Frazier says. "Consumers are shopping earlier using alternative methods, so major retailers are having to be ready earlier or lose market share."

In addition, a huge 40 percent increase is expected this year in giving money and gift certificates. This means more consumers will visit stores after Christmas, so retailers will have to keep up their promotions, inventory and staff.

"Until about the last decade, you needed to have 50 percent-off sales to bring people into your store right after Christmas, Frazier says. "Now the week after Christmas is one of the biggest money makers for retailers."

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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