Retail Holiday "Gimmicks:" Will They Keep The Grinch Away?

I haven't purchased a single Christmas gift for ANYONE that I know. For me, this may be


inexcusable given the amount of time that I spend in malls for work. I'm trying to rein in my spending and apparently I'm in good company. According to the National Retail Federation, more than 70% of consumers have completed only 10% of their holiday shopping.

Price is the single biggest driver for my purchases but as with most shoppers, price competitiveness can dip the balance between two similar items. I do respond, however, to promotional events like 'insider discounts' and exclusive shopping days that popular clothing retailers favored at places like Bloomingdales and others.

What's different this holiday season is that discounters are adopting these type of strategies that have long been used at higher end department stores. Instead of just emphasizing price competition, stores like Wal-Mart's Sam's Club, Target,Best Buy and Circuit City are all pushing gimmicks like exclusive shopping events, giveaways and free gadgets to get shopper traffic in store.


Marketing departments are working overtime to come up with alternatives to price cuts thereby helping to protect profit margins. Best Buy held a Reward Zine shopping event for customers over the weekend and offered them first dibs on hard get products like the Nintendo Wii. Circuit City is giving away Mazdas and tech toys each day this month to shoppers. Sam's Club is raffling off tickets to Nascar events and NASA launches. Why all the extras? They want to be different, to be noticed, and to build momentum and customer loyalty to gain sales through the season.

Even aspirational clothing retailer J.Crew is getting in on the gimmick game. They're creating express check-out kiosks at select stores nationwide. These quickie lanes will work for anyone buying a gift card.

We won't know until January whether these gimmicks are any good at boosting sales in the midst of this slowing macroeconomic environment. Still, expect retailers like Macy's ,Kohl's , J.C. Penney and Wal-Mart to emphasize what promotional activities they're pushing this season during their earnings conference calls this week.

Questions? Comments?