Occupy Christmas

International Day of Action – December 25

Huge retailers now scrambling

Posted by troublemaker on December 23, 2011

The broad message across Occupy Christmas has been to avoid gift shopping at major chain stores and to avoid using credit cards. We at OccupyChristmas.org have asked you to buy local. Other portions of the Occupy Christmas movement have asked you to buy American. North of the U.S. / Canadian border, Adbuster’s magazine has asked that Buy Nothing day be extended into a buy nothing Christmas. Maybe it is just a sluggish economy, but we like to think the occupation has been felt in lower corporate profits this year.

With only a couple days left before Christmas, the New York Times is reporting that in an effort to decrease the damage of an off season, major retailers are slashing prices far below anything expected. You will recall that this year’s Black Friday sales started on Thursday. Well, it seems like this year’s after Christmas sales have started before Christmas. The New York Times has reported Abercrombie & Fitch at 40% off that Ann Taylor is at 50%, the Gap is at a whopping 60%. (1)

“Aggressive last-minute deals in the days before Christmas are good for procrastinators, but they could be an alarm bell for the retail industry.” – New York Times (1)

Discounts across the entire store likely indicate Christmas shopping has been lower than expected. Retailers are willing to lower their prices dramatically prior to the end of the shopping season for two reasons. The first and most obvious is that they do not want to get stuck with unsold merchandise. The second and more obscured reason is consumer confidence which is often directly related to stock prices. When a corporation reports good Christmas sales, consumer confidence is boosted and stock prices tend to go up. Executives of major corporations are often stock holders themselves. If the stock goes up, even when it is not directly related to an increase in profit, the wealth of those executive who hold stock in that company goes up. When considering the sales figures from this Christmas season, it is important to keep an eye on profit rather than volume.

Although Black Friday volume was reportedly larger this season, remember that those huge sales not only started the day before but involved larger discounts than previous years. Despite looking good in the news, profits were driven down by larger discounts and expenses were driven up by the cost of opening earlier than previous years. In the case of retail giant Wal-Mart, it is tempting to claim that starting Black Friday sales on Thursday did not adversely affect profit as they are open 24 hours on a regular basis, that idea is offset by counting Thursdays sales as part of Black Friday reporting.

With large retailers starting their after Christmas sales before Christmas, it stands to reason that part of that effort is not only to eliminate excess inventory but to eliminate that inventory before the Christmas season closes. That way those sales are counted and reported as sales during the Christmas season, something with always finds its way into news media and the minds of potential stock holders.

“Plus, we’ve planned additional incredible values for shoppers visiting our stores on December 23 and 24 with buy one, get one 50%off deals, free gifts with purchase and significant discounts.” – Toys R Us(2)

In addition to offering deep discounts on the two days before Christmas, Toys R Us is offering 24 hour shopping. Macys Inc. has offered 24 hour shopping for the three days before Christmas at fourteen of its stores (3). It seems major retailers noticed the drop in volume shortly after Black Friday..

“A sharp drop in shopping since Thanksgiving weekend has prompted worried retailers to slash prices, extend specials, stay open later — and rewrite the calendar.” – New York Times (4)

The decline in consumer spending at large retailers has not been limited to any one area. The Irish Times joins the New York Times in reporting a decrease in sales volumes over last year. (5) The Guardian is also reporting poor sales figures in the UK. (6)

“Sales at department stores fell by 5.4 per cent compared with a year earlier, although there was a 0.5 per cent rise compared with October.” – Irish Times (5)

With stock prices and executive bonuses riding on how the Christmas season is presented, there can be little doubt the spin will start soon. If they cannot spin it enough to hide decreased profits, it will likely be blamed on the global economic downturn. We tend to believe it has been a combination of events and circumstances. One of those being the heightening of consumer discontent with huge retail establishments. Many thanks to that Canadian magazine Adbustrs for kicking off the recent interest in consumer consciousness. Now let’s Occupy Christmas into the New Year and beyond.

We enter this brave new world with our eyes open.

 

  1. New York Times: Retailers Are Slashing Prices Ahead of Holiday)    
  2. Toys R Us – Last two days before Christmas
  3. Macys Inc – 24 hour store announcement
  4. New York Times: Super Saturday moved a week back.
  5. Irish Times
  6. The Guardian

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