Last-minute holiday shoppers unlikely to find big bargains

The holiday shopping season is down to the two-minute drill.

With only two days until Christmas and Hanukkah already in full swing, retailers are stretching shopping hours to the max in the hope of boosting sales. Toys “R” Us is staying open round the clock, and most retailers are open until 11 p.m. or midnight on Friday. Even Christmas Eve, Target will keep the lights on until 9 p.m. and Toys “R” Us until 10 p.m.

But shoppers who waited — hoping to snare better bargains — may be disappointed. While there are deals to be had, they aren’t dramatically better than what retailers have been offering all holiday season.

While discounts of 30 and 40 percent off are plentiful, there’s very little of the 50 and 60 percent markdowns seen in previous years.

“Retailers have not pulled out all the stops and given consumers big discounts storewide,” said Britt Beemer, chief executive of America’s Research Group. “The consumer really wants 50 and 60 percent off. I don’t think they’re going to get it until after Christmas. Retailers are more concerned about margins than consumers.”

Shoppers have proved that it’s all about the quest for deal. Strong discounts fueled one of the best Black Friday performances in history. U.S. shoppers rang up $52.4 billion over the four-day weekend starting on Thanksgiving, the highest total ever during that period, according to the National Retail Federation. But as retailers held back on the discounts in early December, so did shoppers. The result was a dramatic lull that didn’t pick up until a week ago, when retailers pumped up sales in order to draw in shoppers for what they’ve dubbed Super Saturday.

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