As the nation's economy suffers, analysts expect this year's holiday shopping season to be the worst in a quarter century, with many retailers likely to suffer double-digit drops in sales. But what is bad for the industry might very well be good for you.
"Upper-tier stores will have a very slow season, which will have a significant consumer impact," says Craig Johnson, president of
Customer Growth Partners
, a consulting firm in New Canaan, Conn. "In many ways, it will be a very promotional environment. A lot of luxury goods that normally wouldn't go on sale, already are."
Indeed, it's not just the discount retailers like
that are offering bargain deals. Luxury, too, can be yours at more affordable prices.
Here are some items to check out.
Now that gas prices have dropped below $2 a gallon in many places across the country, why not spend your money on a proper vehicle to carry you from place to place. Of course, there isn't any better time to buy American, as Detroit and
Year-end is always the best time to find a good price on a car anyway, and this year, that reality is magnified.
kicked off its annual
a week early this year, offering all sorts of deals.
Cadillac is featuring fixed-price deals on its signature vehicles, the CTS Sedan and the Escalade. The 2008 Cadillac Escalade Ultra Luxury Collection, for example, which has a $69,515 base MSRP (manufacturer suggested retail price), is being advertised more than $12,000 less. Next year's CTS Sedans are marked more than $6,000 below MSRP.
Cadillac Escalade is on sale now.
"The difference this year is the overall marketplace," says David Caldwell, a spokesman for General Motors. "The selling rate for the whole industry is greatly different." Caldwell says the slumping economy, the big reduction in leasing and distress among financial institutions have contributed to the fixed-price initiative at GM.
"Really, what's different, though, is the consumer," Caldwell says. And the consumer, with the help of the market, is driving prices, even in the luxury end of the spectrum. "Even in the elevated strata that is luxury cars, consumers want the confidence to know that they are making a smart buy."
And while the car-making business here is in especially dire straits, it's not just GM and its American counterparts that are offering deals.
is offering financing as low as 0.9% on most of its 2009 and 2008 models, while
has launched its "December to Remember" sales event, with 0.9% financing for 36 months on most vehicles. You can lease a 2009 RX350 at
Lexus of Manhattan
for $399 a month, a discount of more than $100.
Plasma, LCD Televisions
Prices of Plasma and LCD televisions have been dropping briskly this year, and now may be the time to get that mid-size TV for your bedroom. According to
, a market research and consulting firm, the average price of a 52-inch LCD had dropped 30% to $1,951 in September from a year earlier. The average 50-inch plasma had declined 19% to $1,427. Wal-Mart was recently selling a 50-inch Samsung plasma HDTV for only $798.
has filed for Chapter 11, deals on televisions abound. But you have to move fast. A Sharp 32-inch LCD with 720p resolution is advertised for $499.99, while a Samsung 40-inch Series 5 LCD at full 1080p high definition is going for a slim $799.99.
For those who decide to travel, the going may be less expensive. On average, gas costs are more than a dollar less per gallon than last year at this time, and rates for American Automobile Association Three Diamond hotels are down an average of 10%.
Travel discounts will continue throughout the holiday season and beyond, and they're not limited to one-day car rides to the countryside. Luxury travel company
is offering a host of discounts on vacation packages to destinations across the globe.
The "New Zealand by Land and Sea" package, which features travel aboard a 116-passenger "Clipper Odyssey," is advertising a 50% discount to children traveling with an adult. Save $1,700 a person as you travel through India, visiting the Taj Mahal, the Rajasthan countryside and Vembanad Lake. Or explore South Africa with your family to the tune of $1,500 in savings per family member.
Luxury travel company Abercrombie and Kent offers a host of discounts on vacation packages, including South Africa.
High-end clothes and accessories will also reach incredible lows in the next month, as department stores and designers look to unload inventory made and purchased before the economy took its latest dip.
"Retailers place orders months in advance, and this year, they overbought," said Johnson, of Customer Growth Partners. "There is way too much inventory, so sales are beginning much sooner than normal."
Saks Fifth Avenue's designer sale offers up to 40% off nearly 4,000 items online and features clothing and accessories from designers like Giorgio Armani, Oscar de la Renta and Ralph Lauren. Saks offers free shipping on orders over $200, as well as no payments and no interest for 12 months when you spend more than $2,000 with your Saks card through Dec. 11.
And Neiman Marcus' last-call online clearance features a 65% discount and free shipping with orders of $200 or more.
Nate Herpich is a freelance writer and editor living in Brooklyn, N.Y. He has also written for the Wall Street Journal, the Christian Science Monitor and Sports Illustrated.com.