Super Saturday Confusion: December 17 or 24?

New York—In a holiday season already rife with retail hyperbole, there is what might be the “Big Kahuna” of all: the Saturday before Christmas, which traditionally is the biggest shopping day of the year (yes, Black Friday usually falls third or fourth).

Problem is, this year’s Saturday before Christmas is December 24, Christmas Eve. Meaning many shoppers may be well into their holiday celebrations on Christmas Eve.

And with several consumer surveys showing American consumers are waiting until the final week to finish their shopping—mostly in hopes of getting Super Saturday sized discounts up to 70% off, many retailers have moved up their Super Saturday sales to Saturday, Dec. 17.

Rather than miss out on the usual Super Saturday totals that can reach $15 billion in sales, Super Saturday sales are starting early at retailers such as Macy’s, JCPenney, Sears, Aeropostale and others.

Countdown to Christmas: ‘Retailers Willing to Do Anything’

In fact, Ken Perkins of Retail Metrics forecasts retailers that have not been heavily promoting this weekend before Christmas will “jump on the markdowns bandwagon with 50% to 70% off, or be left behind.”

Nonetheless, other retailers, including Victoria’s Secret, Skechers, etc. are sticking with the traditional Saturday before Christmas for their Super Saturday sales.

Macy's Super Saturday is planned for tomorrow, Dec. 17

Which may confuse thing for consumers, who are already bombarded with “free shipping” deals, coupons and other incentives that are increasing as the countdown to Christmas enters it final week.

“It’s chaotic,” Dan Biederman, president of the 34th Street Partnership, told The New York  Times. “The world seems to be split.”

Since the Partnership helps retailers market key events such as Super Saturday, it is a dicey situation when on the one hand, majors like Macy’s, hope to lure in Super Saturday shoppers on Dec. 17, others nearby plan Super Saturday on Dec. 24. Biederman said the Partnership now has moved up its Super Saturday digital counter (which measures the number of shopping bags in the Herald Square vicinity) to Dec. 17 from Dec. 24.

Michael McNamara, vice president of research and analysis for MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, which tracks consumer spending, warned that if last minute shoppers don’t materialize for the deep, cross category discounts typical of the last Saturday before Christmas, retailers could get stuck with too much inventory. “If you wait until the 24th, you have no time to recover,” he said.

McNamara expects many more retailers to move up their Super Saturday to Dec. 17 because inventory reduction has not kept up with expectations—especially after a record-breaking Black Friday that was followed by the drop earlier this month in the unemployment rate from 9% to 8.6%.

Of course, there’s still next week, where some retailers plan to open for extended hours: Toys “R” Us plans to open for 112 consecutive hours leading up till Dec. 25; Macy’s plans to keep at least 12 store open for 83 hours straight, for example.

“It’s a crazy time right now, with retailers willing to do anything,” David L. Bassuk, analyst at AlixPartners, a retail consultant, told Bloomberg News.

This December has been marked with nonstop promotions that will make December profits “highly questionable” since consumers usually flock to the items on sale, Bussuk said.

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Jeff Prine, Editor at Large, Accessories Magazine
Jeff returns as a regular contributor to Accessories magazine. Initially Jeff worked as senior editor at Accessories more than 20 years ago and his love of the industry has followed him until present. Since his tenure here, Jeff has continued to report jewelry, watch and other luxury goods trends as executive editor at Modern Jeweler magazine, fashion director at Lustre, and as contributor on products and trends for consumer and trade publications and websites. In addition to his editorial experience, Jeff also served as an adjunct instructor for accessories merchandising at Fashion Institute of Technology. jeffp@busjour.com