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Thursday focus: Shopping life

Retailers reported dismal sales results for December, and a rash of stores have closed or filed for bankruptcy. Retailers cut 66,600 jobs in December.

Here are 10 lessons from Christmas 2008:

1. Who’s cutthroat now? Power has shifted to the consumer. Being able to stand in front of a product and search the price at nearby competitors on a smart phone is amazing.

2. Gift cards have limits. Shoppers turned to cash or merchandise instead of loaded plastic as they worried that retailers might go out of business, or they found gifts at prices they couldn’t pass up.

3. No. 2’s try harder, but that isn’t always enough. Don’t believe it? Ask KB Toys and Circuit City, both of which have found themselves in bankruptcy court.

4. Parents will sacrifice. Toys R Us’ U.S. division sales eked out a 1.9 percent increase in December – one of the few gainers this season.

5. Maybe layaway belongs in the 1970s. Sears trumpeted the pre-credit-card concept of taking merchandise home after it’s paid for at its Sears and Kmart stores. December same-store sales fell 12.8 percent at Sears and declined 1.1 percent at Kmart.

6. Even the pickiest fashionistas know how to save a buck. Luxury is bleeding buckets because full-price selling went out the window with wealth.

7. Americans do have self-control chromosomes. Much of the decline in spending was totally by choice. Shoppers with no household job losses were still cutting back.

8. How low can they go? We saw retailers ready to move merchandise. They pulled out the paring knife and kept slashing prices like never before.

9. Going out of business sales aren’t always what they seem. In this promotional environment, liquidation sales didn’t always measure up.

10. Everyone has a price. “Eighty percent off, that’s almost free,” said Irving, Texas, resident Candice Clark, shopping at a Kohl’s store the day after Christmas.

Dallas Morning News

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