A holiday wish: bargains under every tree

Henry Leace, the owner of Havana Nines, is feeling hopeful for the first time in a year.

The Miami-based chain known for its Latin apparel has seen sales jump almost 20 percent during the third quarter. But winning business back has taken aggressive discounting and a shift to more private label apparel. It's a strategy that Leace hopes will pay dividends at his 11 Havana Nines stores this holiday season.

``There's a resistance to full price everywhere,'' Leace said. ``People want to see what's on sale. We had to be on the attack to make customers spend. We had to give them a reason.''

Industry experts say a compelling value message is going to be one of the main motivators to get consumers spending this holiday season. But don't expect the wild 75 percent off discounts of last year, when retailers got caught with an inventory backlog and were forced to take major markdowns to get the merchandise off the shelves.

Retailers this year have planned better and slimmed down inventory in expectation of a sluggish holiday season. Forecasts are calling for a season that won't be great, but it's certainly going to look a lot better than last year's dismal performance.

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