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Stores make last-minute offers

Retailers employing coupons, discounts to lure shoppers

With just one Christmas shopping day left and snow hampering sales in Spokane, retailers are trying to entice buyers today and for post-holiday shopping.

Holiday sales could be the worst since 1969, the Associated Press has reported, and retailers are listening to consumers’ demands for good deals.

Stores are offering steep discounts and generous coupons, including some good for purchases storewide. They’re planning after-Christmas sales that in some cases are the biggest discounts ever.

Barnes & Noble has increased its distribution of Internet coupons, said Diane Switzer, assistant manager of the chain’s Spokane Valley store.

Switzer said Spokane’s cold and snowy weather has hurt December sales. But the book trade was already hurting nationally, according to the Association of American Publishers. That organization reported recently that book sales were off 3.4 percent for the year.

Wal-Mart, which is having a good year according to its annual report, is facing more competition for bargain-priced goods because other stores are cutting prices, said Darren Skipper, manager of the Valley store. But it isn’t planning anything out of the ordinary after Christmas. “We are focusing on our low prices and matching competitor prices,” he said.

Traffic at the Spokane Valley Wal-Mart is below its estimated expected figures because of the weather, and some employees are having a difficult time getting to work. But snow shovels remain popular – the store can’t get enough of them, Skipper said.

J.C. Penney Co. has had deep clearance sales with coupons offered on the Web and in the newspaper, said Francine Mudd, assistant manager of the store in the Spokane Valley Mall. In addition, the chain offered more Black Friday deals than ever, including 300 “doorbusters” and 100 “big buys,” according to Market Watch. Yet November sales for the chain fell nearly 12 percent, the Associated Press reported.

“We are having a huge after-Christmas sale and it will probably be one of the biggest we have had,” Mudd said.

This year, the average American got a late start on Christmas shopping, and 41 million people hadn’t even started shopping as of Dec. 15, according to the National Retail Federation.

Stores throughout the Northwest were struggling long before the Christmas season, although Spokane was a bright spot. As of the end of June, retail sales in Washington were down 3.5 percent from 2007, according to the state Department of Revenue. But Spokane County was down only 1.5 percent and Spokane saw an increase of 2.68 percent.

Todd Caldwell, a construction worker shopping Tuesday at the Spokane Valley Mall, said he’s among those cutting back. Work is especially slow because of the wintry weather, he said.

Shoppers Myles and Linda Dewey said they have had a difficult time shopping this year because of the weather. They said they’ll be watching for big discounts after Christmas.