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Holiday Shopping Notebook: Holiday Tweets

NEW YORK - NEW YORK (AP) — You may want to check Facebook and Twitter before heading to the mall the day after Thanksgiving.

Office supplies chain Staples Inc. this week used social media to advertise price cuts of nearly 50 percent for Nov. 27 on certain laptops, GPS devices and computer monitors, and still other merchants are expected to follow suit.

Dan de Grandpre, editor-in-chief of dealnews.com, said retailers are smart to use social networking sites because shoppers probably will stick around as followers of the company even after the sale.

"Twitter and Facebook are now major ways to disseminate information," Grandpre said.

One in five shoppers plans to use the sites in their holiday shopping this season, according to Deloitte Research.

Hundreds of Black Friday bargains from retailers such as diverse as OfficeMax and Old Navy already are being leaked on deal sites, even though the big sales blitz is still a couple weeks away.

And the fun won't end Nov. 27, traditionally seen as the day that the holiday shopping season launches.

After that, an iPhone application from dealnews.com that now tracks Black Friday deals, for instance, will show sales for the following Monday, now known as Cyber Monday because it's the first weekday after the Thanksgiving weekend and many consumers shop from their desks that day.

— AP Retail Writer Betsy Vereckey

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Teen stores have the holiday blues

NEW YORK (AP) — When retailers reported their monthly sales for October last week, one sector seemed to need some extra help: teen-oriented stores.

With sales at stores open at least a year down nearly 6 percent, the sector performed the worst, falling below even department stores, and that bodes ill for their holiday business.

Teen sales were dragged down by Abercrombie & Fitch Co., which has been abandoned by teens flocking to lower-priced stores, and even by some stores that have fared better during the recession. American Eagle Outfitters and Aeropostale Inc. performed sharply worse than what analysts had predicted.

"The shift in priorities for holiday, post-back-to-school, is clearly not on apparel," for teens, said NPD Group analyst Marshal Cohen.

Gift cards and electronics are a higher priority for them, he said.

Some teen standbys remain popular, such as jeans, graphic T-shirts, athletic shoes and winter boots, Cohen said. But adults are more likely to get clothes as gifts than teens this year, he said.

The shift has partly to do with the length of the recession, Cohen said. Parents have been less likely to cut back on kids than themselves but eventually have had to cut back on everything.

Given the weak economy, "teenagers have less disposable income," Cohen said, in part because fewer are employed.

Still, the trend won't last forever.

"Teen retailers are always the last to show the recession, but also one of the first to recover out of it," Cohen said.

— AP Retail Writer Mae Anderson

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How scared are shoppers to buy early?

NEW YORK (AP) — Some stores have been telling shoppers to buy holiday gifts as soon as possible or risk not finding what they want a few weeks from now.

But shoppers may not be panicking the way retailers would like them to.

Even if consumers are scrambling for a few of this year's hottest items — like Cepia Inc.'s Zhu Zhu pet hamsters or a must-have fashion accessory — they're likely to take their time for most everything else, according to a recent poll of 1,000 shoppers conducted by the International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs.

The survey found that 81 percent of shoppers aren't motivated by lean inventories to shop earlier than in past seasons.

One key reason consumers appear less concerned about shortages is that retailer and mall-based gift cards are available. According to the survey, 48 percent of shoppers plan to buy a gift card if they can't find the present they want to buy.

"Bargains seemingly may matter more than selection for the consumer," said Michael P. Niemira, chief economist at ICSC.

— AP Retail Writer Anne D'Innocenzio

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