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Byline: Sharon Edelson and Jean Palmieri With contributions from Evan Clark
Black Friday Challenge: Stores Test Strategies To Lure Wary Shoppers
Game on and retailers don't want to take chances with the fragile consumer psyche.
After more than a year of recession fallout that made holiday 2008 a retail Waterloo, stores will put their austerity strategies to the stiffest test when the season moves into high gear on Black Friday.
But the mood of shoppers is a stiff challenge, although after a year of tightened wallets and economic hardship, there is a perception of some pent-up demand among consumers that could benefit stores.
Lew Frankfort, chief executive officer of Coach, said consumers have been trained to wait for sales and the response of retailers to that face-off will dictate the tone of the holiday.
"While Coach does not go 'on sale' in our retail stores, we do expect that the atmosphere will likely remain very promotional at retail, irrespective of cleaner inventories, as the customer has been trained to wait for promotions," he said. "We're confident that this holiday will be better than last."
Even as the consumer "is feeling somewhat better about the economy...she is looking for innovation, relevance and value prices need to make sense," Frankfort said. "She is also looking to be surprised and delighted. Playing it safe won't work for retailers."
More stores are opening on Thanksgiving Day and the deals will continue until Cyber Monday, traditionally the busiest day for e-commerce. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., applying price-cutting pressure on all fronts as it seeks to grab the biggest chunks of consumers' disposable incomes, will get a jump start on Thanksgiving Day when it offers 50 online-only specials with savings of as much as 40 percent on electronics, video games and toys.
"The starting gun is firing earlier," said Bill Lewis, executive vice president of Karabus Management. "The race is much more value driven with more online advertising. Consumers are using mobile devices to check prices. The consumer will comparison shop …