Retailers Cross Fingers As Holidays Near

If the shoppers come, the Gap will be ready.

As the holiday shopping season ramps up, retail stores are busy putting the finishing touches on efforts to draw customers in, despite the battered U.S. economy, reports CBS News correspondent Seth Doane.

"This is it, we're at the end," said Barbara Cook, head of stores for Gap, Inc. "What you're seeing is the finish line of the whole kind of retail chain here."

While Gap sales are down 8 percent from a year ago, net income actually rose, because the company slashed inventory and closed unprofitable locations, said Cook.

"You know, it's a bit like planning for a very well-choreographed play," she said of the holiday preparations.

But they cannot choreograph the customers.

Eighty-nine percent of shoppers plan to spend the same, or less, than they did last year. Only 11 percent plan to spend more.

"This year Black Friday takes on a different dynamic," said retail analyst Marshall Cohen. "The consumer has already seen the retailer blink months ago and that means the consumer has the ability to wait as long as they want. You're going to be able to get anything, anywhere at almost any price."

So on the eve of Black Friday, some sales teams are getting pep talks, with managers reminding staff of two-for-one sweater deals.

In past years, sale items were positioned near the front to draw customers in. Now they're everywhere.

"I think the customers are definitely looking for value," said Cook.

While clothing and toys top the holiday shopping list, electronics and video games are not too far behind. And despite dismal predictions, Best Buy's Michael Vitelli thinks Black Friday could surprise everyone.

"There's a part of me, the hopeful part, that says this Black Friday is going to be bigger than any one in recent memory because there are so many people looking for deals that are only available on that day," he said.

That may be what retailers are hoping, but another statistic may give them pause - just about 11 percent of shoppers haven't paid off their holiday shopping debt from last year.
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