WASHINGTON ( TheStreet) -- Holiday shopping, Black Friday, store aisles lined with Christmas trees. Yep, sounds like July.
Listen, Toys R Us, we understand that the Consumer Confidence Index is dropping like December temperatures and slumping summer retail sales figures could use some a nice little song and dance from stop-motion anthropomorphic reindeer, but that was no reason to announce your "Christmas Saver's Club" holiday plan in June. Now you, Target (TGT), Sears (SHLD) and just about every other retailer still reeling from last month's 0.5% sales drop and the 1.2% plunge that preceded it in May are making merry and hoping to cash in on some early holiday spirit. At least we're spared the 24-hour Christmas music stations for the moment.
We can't blame these store for their holiday nostalgia, as sales last season rebounded 1.1%, to $446 billion, from the deluge of discounts that emptied revenue from retailers' stockings during the recession-rattled 2008 holiday, according to the National Retail Federation. But much as an iPad under the tree will delete any memory of talking to Aunt Gertie about her goiter surgery, Toys R Us and its ilk selectively recall the 23 million boost in Black Friday shoppers last year from 2008, but overlook the nearly 10% drop in their average spending.
Retailers also remember the 100 million consumers parked by their keyboards on Cyber Monday last year and a 7% spike in clothing sales, which is what leads them toward subjecting back-to-school shoppers to Whitney Houston's version of "Do You Hear What I Hear" and forcing a part-timer at a store in Savannah, Ga., to put on a Santa suit in August. Considering that these retailers will start holiday sales Jan. 1 if the economy continues on its current course, we at TheStreet believe this is a fine time to present our Top 5 holiday sales gimmicks... so far:5. eLayaway: Perhaps the only retailer that can't be accused of holiday pandering at this point, eLayaway starts sales around this time because it has to. By offering pay-over-time gift cards to such partners as Home Depot (HD), Best Buy (BBY), Wal-Mart (WMT) and Foot Locker (FL), eLayway lets customers pay now to spend later. Its been a booming business, as founder Sergio Pinon said the company didn't have to market itself at all last holiday season while accepting pleas from desperate merchants. Sure, eLayaway also offers such products as Nintendo's Wii, Apple (AAPL)'s iMac and MacBook and Sony's (SNE) PlayStation 3, but why invest in a present that may be purchased or passé by the time the holiday arrives?
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