Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Desperate hours: Stores stay open late

Don't worry if you haven't started your Christmas shopping yet. You'll have plenty of time to get it all done before Tuesday as long as you don't need to sleep.

J.C. Penney Co. stores will be open until midnight Friday and Saturday. At Mervyns, you'll be able to keep buying until 2 a.m. all weekend, and the chain will throw in $10 gift cards for the first 200 people through the doors each day at 5 a.m. In case you have nothing else to do, Kmart will stage a nonstop 64-hour sale beginning at 6 a.m. Saturday at most of its stores around the nation.

The record may be set on the East Coast, where many Macy's stores in the Greater New York area will remain open for 83 consecutive hours. The Macy's in Queens Center Mall will unlock its doors at 7 a.m. Thursday and not close them until 6 p.m. Monday -- 107 hours later.

"There's a lot of desperation out there," said Candace Corlett, a principal at WSL Strategic Retail, a strategy firm. "This is a weird, wacky holiday."

And not necessarily a happy one for retail companies.

The International Council of Shopping Centers said Monday that sales last week were up just 2.1% in the weakest year-over-year advance since July as "storms and a procrastinating consumer" got in the way. Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group, shaved his holiday forecast this week, saying sales at stores open a year or more would rise 1.8%, not 2%. It was his lowest forecast in a decade.

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