Christmas shopping slows as clock winds down

Christmas shopping slows as clock winds down

UNITED STATES - US consumers shopped less on the final weekend before Christmas despite deeper discounts, the latest sign of how difficult a season this is turning out to be for retailers.

Shoppers also showed signs they will do more of their spending after December 25 than they did in the same period last year in the hopes of snagging even more deals.

"We expect the next two weeks to pick up a lot of the slack," Topeka Capital Markets analyst Dorothy Lakner wrote in a note.

Analytics firm RetailNext estimated on Sunday that US retail sales fell by a mid-single-digit percentage at brick-and-mortar stores on Friday and Saturday, two of the four most important shopping days of the season, compared with the same days last year.

That does not include online sales, which have been strong.

The number of visits to stores fell 7 per cent on Friday and Saturday, RetailNext said.

Analysts have said this is turning out to be the most competitive holiday season since the recession, forcing retailers to ramp up the promotions. The season generates 30 per cent of sales and 40 per cent of profits for many stores.

"I'm doing my shopping on a budget, which is why I'm digging through the clearance bin," said Katrina Attis, 25, as she shopped on Sunday at a J.C. Penney Co Inc store in a mall in Elmhurst, New York.

Before Christmas, Attis will focus on her immediate family. For herself and other members of her family, she will shop next week when she expects bigger bargains.

"Retailers recognise that consumers will wait as long as they need to," said Charles O'Shea, senior analyst at Moody's Investors Service, who noted bigger discounts this weekend than in the corresponding weekend in 2012 as he did store checks in various cities.

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