With just one week until Christmas, retailers are rolling out shopper-baiting strategies to lure procrastinators, deal-hunters and people who just want a few extra stocking stuffers.
Tactics include offering extended shopping hours, free shipping, last-minute-shopping ad campaigns and social media reminders that time is ticking away.
The week leading up to Christmas is usually when consumers open their wallets wide — the Saturday before the holiday traditionally being the biggest spending day behind Black Friday, according to shopper analytics firm ShopperTrak. Four of the 10 busiest holiday shopping days will occur between Dec. 20 and Dec. 24, ShopperTrak predicts.
"All the procrastinators are going to come out," says ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin.
This holiday shopping season is shorter than last, with six fewer days — translating into just four weekends instead of five.
The final two weeks of the year account for as much as 30% of holiday season sales, the National Retail Federation says.
In-store retail sales for the week of Dec. 9 to Dec. 15 were down about 1% from the same week last year, according to ShopperTrak data released on Tuesday. Snowstorms in the Midwest and Northeast kept people from shopping, Martin says.
There will be "high levels of in-store shopper activity" the weekend before Christmas, he says.
Here's how retailers are trying to get the attention of gift buyers:
•Going social in their countdown warnings. Companies are using social media to remind customers that Christmas is looming and to offer gift suggestions. Best Buy is using the Twitter hashtag #LastMinuteGifts to promote its goods and on Tuesday evening hosted a Google+ Hangout chat with the last-minute gift theme.
•Targeting procrastinators. On Wednesday, J.C. Penney launches a "men in panic" TV ad. In it, a desperate man darts through a store as a small choir sings "point him to the jewelry so he won't buy a vacuum."
•Offering free shipping. Many retailers, including J.C. Penney, have embraced Wednesday as "Free Shipping Day" — no minimum order, and delivery by Christmas Eve is guaranteed. FreeShippingDay.com has a list of nearly 900 participating merchants.
•Extending store hours. Nordstrom, Target and Toys R Us all have longer hours now or coming up.
Toys R Us will be open around the clock for 87 uninterrupted hours beginning at 6 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 21, through 9 p.m. Christmas Eve. "Expanded hours at this time of year have proven to be very popular with customers in the past, but with the shortened shopping window between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and no time left to procrastinate, we expect to see larger crowds at all hours," says company spokeswoman Linda DeNotaris.