Christmas may be over, but for retailers, the next phase of the holiday shopping season begins Saturday.
Shoppers can expect some steep discounts, but unlike last year retail experts warn that there will be a lot less selection among the items on sale.
"Don't look for any amazing deals this year," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for the NPD Group, a Port Washington-based market research firm. "The deals are pretty good, but we're just spoiled from last year when we were buying things at below the retailer's cost."
Traditionally the day and week after Christmas means returning well-meaning but ill-fitting or unwanted gifts, and it also is another opportunity for merchants to cash in on gift cards and get rid of their winter inventory by offering more discounts.
Last holiday season, retailers and consumers alike were stunned by the financial turmoil, and retailers found themselves with too much inventory left over. But this year, they kept inventories lean to avoid desperate discounting, retail analysts said.
Still, there will be sales and crowds in search of a deal this weekend. One area to expect activity is in apparel, especially women's clothing, which has had weak sales, retail experts said. Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates Inc., a Manhattan-based retail consulting and investment banking firm, predicted big markdowns at department stores, which also have been doing poorly, he said.
"I think consumers are going to be buying because we are in the midst of the biggest trade-down effect in the history of retailing," Davidowitz said. "Their priorities one through 10 are price. They know it's going to be an additional 20 to 25 percent off, and I think they will be buying."
Local merchants, many of whom have seen increased gift certificate sales, are also prepared for a busy weekend, said Julie Marchesella, vice president of the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce and the owner of Queen of Hearts, a Merrick boutique selling plus-size formal wear, gifts and accessories.
"It's a perfect opportunity for people to stay local and keep downtowns bustling," she said.