Chief industry analyst, NPD Group
What retail trends can shoppers expect for the holiday season?
A: From a sales perspective, one trend that has materialized is there's going to be a lot of "buy one, get one" deals -- buy one, get one free; buy one, get one half off, 20 percent off. This year, retailers are looking to move more inventory because of the late arrival of winter, and added on top of that for us on Long Island is the closure of stores during the storm from two days to two weeks.
How else will a retailer's need to move inventory affect us?
A: What you'll see this year as the holiday season folds out is we're seeing more and more emphasis on the sale weekend. It's not just Black Friday weekend; look for every weekend to be some kind of deal, look for early sales. Online, retailers are posting their sales earlier and earlier. Look for them not just to compete with each other in what the sales are but also the hours of the sale, which will be earlier and earlier.
Online sales versus in-store: Where can shoppers find better deals, and has that changed since last year?
A: Traditionally, we've always found better deals online than in stores, but this year, you may find better deals in stores as we get closer to the holiday. Retailers are very aggressive this year with managing their inventory. If sweaters have been slow to sell, they are going to be very aggressive with pricing. No one wants to go into the new year with old inventory.
What can we expect to see in stores in terms of hot items?
A: The big news is really going to be the continuation of the younger generation wanting electronics and the younger generation educating the older generation on the benefits of it. So, look for tablets, look for new cellphones, look for video games, look for them to be the drivers of where big business is coming from.
Another surprise is footwear. That's not typically a holiday item, but for the last few years it's experienced a surge.
How will superstorm Sandy affect the retail industry this season?
A: There's no question that the storm has had a great effect. In the most affected areas, stores weren't even open. . . . That is the untold story of the effects of Sandy on retail. Nobody went shopping for two weeks. They loaded up on essential storm preparedness, but they didn't shop for fashion, they didn't shop for clothes, they didn't shop for entertainment. Here on Long Island, look for retail to really have a long road to catch up.
So does it pay to start holiday shopping sooner rather than later?
A: It will be to your advantage to shop in November versus December this year. There will be better inventory at lower prices. In December, we'll see depleted inventory. You may have to settle when it comes to size, color and style. November is the time to take advantage of what you want at a good price.
CEO and founder of The Good Home Co., which sells high-end cleaning products
As a business owner, how would you expect your customers' holiday shopping habits to change as a result of Sandy?
A: I do think we'll have a strong Christmas season. People have suffered so much, and I think in general that people want to get out and celebrate, and I think you'll probably see more shopping at more brick-and-mortar stores. . . . It's such a wonderful time of year with Christmas, Hanukkah and the bright lights, and I think people need that right now.
All the storm-related issues people are dealing with may leave less time for holiday shopping. How can shoppers deal with that?
A: I think it will be minimized. I think people are going to shop, but it won't be for as much. Retailers who are able to respond to prepackaged gift sets, gift cards, making it convenient for people, will do well. Shopping online is a great option. Make it simple. If you want to send a gift, pick one website and send everyone gifts from there.
What are tips for managing holiday shopping costs for those on a Sandy-related budget?
A: Gift cards are great if you know where someone shops or what their needs are. If you don't have electricity for weeks, a Starbucks gift card for a warm cup of coffee and electricity will go a long way.
Homemade gifts are always in good taste. For a friend of our family who just lost her home on Staten Island, we sent her a copy of her favorite book, our son made her a new pillow and we baked a batch of cookies and sent a lavender bubble bath for relaxing. Find great handmade gift ideas on Pinterest.
And then you could just not spend at all. Really I think people more than ever will be completely understanding. Don't attempt to give to everyone you know. Instead, make a donation to a local church or on Amazon or Alice.com.
If you are focusing on helping someone on your list through this difficult time, what are some good gift ideas?
If someone is still recovering from the storm, a meal service, a fruit-of-the-month club, something prepackaged that people can just open up and pop in the oven. Those will be appreciated.
Shop local if you can. Help rebuild your community by buying locally and supporting the businesses in your neighborhood or community.
Professor of psychology at Hofstra University and director of the university's Phobia and Trauma ClinicGenerally, what is the impact of a tragedy like superstorm Sandy on human emotion and behavior?
A: Sandy has basically traumatized Long Island. What that means is that something well out of the realm of normal has changed our lives. It has affected us to all different levels, so some people may have just lost power, maybe they only lost if for a few days, and while that's annoying, it's out of the realm of normal, it's far less than people who lost power and lost communication and may have felt very isolated for days or at this point weeks. Yet those people still are far less impacted than people who have lost power and communication and feel isolated and their homes are wet, damaged and they've lost possessions.
How do you expect Sandy to impact the holiday season?
A: We have a tradition, we come into the holiday season where we have family and friends gather and express our love and admiration through gifts and doing things with people, and in general, it's oftentimes described as a season of joy.
So how do you take people that are traumatized and at the same time have them feel that sense of joy? It's actually a good thing, but it can't be forced. All of us will benefit by returning to normality, returning to our jobs, returning to school . . . There are certain events and traditions that happen, and we should observe those.
What about the actual task of holiday shopping?
A: I think it's going to be mixed, and it's not all that different to the holidays following 9/11. People will recognize that we need to get back to normal and get back to our love and affection and give what we can give. It's a tough time because there have been so many losses for people. Financially, it will be difficult for people and that will cause stress.
People who have lost should not put extra stress on themselves. They have lost houses and businesses, etc., and they should not feel obligated to have to buy something for everybody and put themselves in a position of greater financial need than they already are.
How can those who are concerned about their finances manage to gift on a budget?
A: Gift giving may not be as elaborate or store-bought as in the past. Sometimes, just having someone to a dinner or giving a plate of cookies is as meaningful as giving some store-bought gift. It probably will be difficult somewhat on the businesses. We certainly don't want our stores or our malls to fail, but there might be some limitation to people's spending.