Holiday gift plan? Bake, swap, wait, shop vintage

Fri Nov 28, 2008 12:12pm EST
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By Brad Dorfman

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Baking, bartering, scouring consignment shops and waiting until the last minute for bigger bargains are strategies being used by recession-wary Americans who still want to give gifts this holiday season.

"Handmade products are really going to replace a lot of spending," said Marshal Cohen, chief retail industry analyst at NPD Group. And, Cohen said, he tells people to break out the cookbook and "bake some cookies". He also expects that people will be making their own gift baskets instead of buying expensive ones.

"A lot of people are very comfortable with saying, 'I'm on a budget,'" this season and cutting back on the amount of money they spend on gifts, Cohen said.

As the U.S. economy contracts and more people fear for their jobs, U.S. retailers are bracing for what may be the weakest holiday shopping season in two decades.

Retailers are offering more aggressive deals this year to get people shopping on November 28, the day after Thanksgiving known as "Black Friday" because it once put many stores "in the black" before year end.

While those deals may be tempting, shoppers could do well to wait for bigger promotions that may come closer to Christmas as stores clear out inventory.

"Most of the stuff we're seeing is (consumers) trying to take advantage of any of the bargains and also waiting to see if the deals get any better," said George Belch, professor of marketing at San Diego State University.

Retailers have worked hard to tighten inventories to avoid steep markdowns. But this year, there is no "must-have" item as there has been in the past, and less fear that procrastinators stand to lose out on discounts, so consumers are more likely to hold out for last minute bargains.   Continued...