While this weekend should see a pickup in sales, analysts are looking for the shopping season to turn white-hot during the last weekend before Christmas, particularly on Dec. 23.

"The customer knows the longer they wait, the prices are going to come down even lower," says Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates, a New York-based retail consulting and investment banking firm. "People are waiting for reductions. I believe the season will be made in the last five or six days."

Scott Rothbort, founder of LakeView Asset Management and a contributor to Street Insight, says he expects shopping to be somewhat level until the last week before Christmas. This weekend will see big volume, he says, but not as big as in the upcoming weeks.

If sales don't pick up, of course, the markdowns will come.

"People know it's not a question of whether this stuff is going on sale, its when," says Craig Johnson, president of the retail consulting firm Customer Growth Partners. "Who wants to pay retail?"

Davidowitz says shoppers may be reluctant to spend because they are waiting for retailers to match deals given on Black Friday. He criticizes retailers for focusing so much on Black Friday sales, when the day after Thanksgiving is only the sixth-biggest shopping day.

"Why open stores at midnight?" he says. "Why spend so much money on advertising and spend so much on door-busters? Too much was spent for too little."

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