Saturday, December 22, 2007

Coach, Best Buy Lure Shoppers With Instant Checkout

U.S. retailers, confronting what may be the worst holiday-sales season in five years, are trying to get shoppers out of their stores.

The FAO Schwarz toy store in New York increased the number of transactions checkout clerks must make each hour. Circuit City Stores Inc. says customers can pick up purchases in stores 24 minutes after ordering on-line. Charlotte Russe Inc. has installed 1,600 faster registers at its apparel stores.

As what is expected to be the busiest holiday shopping weekend approaches, chains are trying to get customers in the door with the lure of a quick checkout. The shorter the wait time, the greater the likelihood clients will return to a store, according to a survey by the Mystery Shopping Providers Association, a trade group based in Dallas.

``I saw the queues,'' said Tina Archer, a tourist from London, in the Apple Inc. emporium on Fifth Avenue in New York, where employees ring up sales and e-mail receipts on hand-held devices. ``When I found I didn't have to stand in them, I thought, `Great.''' The speed of the roving checkout clerk ``definitely would make me come back and shop,'' she said.

The Cupertino, California-based Apple first introduced the machines two years ago and now uses them at all of its 178 U.S. stores.

Surveys show that consumers are completing their holiday gift-buying later this year than in the past three seasons at least, said Michael Niemira, chief economist of the International Council of Shopping Centers.

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