Retailers slashed prices every which way to entice shoppers before Christmas, to little avail.
Preliminary numbers are down sharply from last year.
So, how low will retailers go in an attempt to salvage something from this holiday shoppng season, now that Christmas has come and gone?
"It's hard, mathematically, to see (prices) go lower," retail analyst Marshal Cohen of the NDP Group told substitue co-anchor Tracy Smith on The Early Show Friday, "but really, what's going to happen is retailers are going to start bundling. (That) means, buy one, get two free. They're gonna basically get to a point where -- buy one, take as many as you want home!
"We're getting close to that. But really, what's going to happen is, from today on, the retailers are just gonna continue to up the ante. They want to be out of this merchandise before the middle of January so they can get ready for, hopefully, a whole new season."
Crowds, Marshal pointed out, "really haven't been down all that much. It's the shopping, the purchasing that's really down. Consumers are going out. The sport of shopping is still a big family pastime endeavor, but consumers are just basically saying, 'Unless there's a really great reason for me to buy it and right now, I won't.'
"Price has been the only lure that the retailer has been able to use, and the consumer is saying, 'Well, you know, convince me otherwise. I'm thinking twice before I make any purchases.'
So really, what's happening is the crowds will be there, but this is one of those rare times. These may be the best deals you're gonna find in a decade. This is something that didn't normally happen, when the retailer got caught really with more merchandise than they expected, and prices are really the only way they're gonna be able to get the consumer to spend."
As a result, "Now is the time" to hit stores, Cohen agreed with Smith.
Apparel has been particularly hard hit, he noted, saying, "Clothing really had a tough season starting back in fall, back in August, September and October, the apparel business just fell out of the bottom. There's nothing new and exciting. You can wear a short skirt or a long shirt. You can wear black with another black outfit, and people are just compiling, so wardrobing has really been going on for awhile. The apparel industry is probably the least most fashionable of all businesses. Electronics are more colorful than apparel is."
Speaking of which -- that sector has also been suffering, with a couple of exceptions.
"When you look at what's new and exciting (in electronics) this year," Cohen said, "it's the same as last year, meaning, there's nothing new and exciting. What happened is, Apple really did a good job of keeping their product in the forefront, keeping it exciting, keeping it top-of-mind, and they even came out with nine new colors of some of the products that they had last year, so they got people excited. There were people, consumers out there telling me they were buying a new iPod for themselves in their favorite color and gifting their other one that they had from before!"
Another bright spot -- "video game businesses; Wii Fit is a great example of updating the hot item from last year with new and exciting product. Good luck finding the Wii Fit the last two months of the holiday season, and now we have to wait for them to come back in. Some of the kids are actually saying, 'I'd rather go without getting anything this Christmas, even if it means waiting for he one thing I want." '