NEW YORK (AP) — Gone are the days when animatronic elves were as technologically sophisticated as department-store windows got during the holidays. This year New York retailers are deploying high-tech spectacles to grab shoppers' attention.

At its flagship location, Bloomingdales is assembling 100 digital screens of different sizes into a mosaic, making its debut Thursday. Together the monitors will form one image: a computer-generated animation of a dreamy winter landscape.

Saks Fifth Avenue enlisted the help of an "experiential" marketing agency to spice up its exterior. At its Fifth Avenue store, starting Monday, a digital projector periodically will beam a six-minute show onto the building's facade. In it, snowflakes and bubbles pirouette to a remixed version of "Carol of the Bells" and interact with the architecture, with bubbles getting "stuck" under windowsills and snow piling up on them.

"We're going for the wow factor, the 'How did they do that?'" said Terron Schaefer, Saks' chief creative officer.

Fifteen blocks downtown, Macy's has computerized its windows so each one is a mini theatrical show with scene changes, lighting, video and voiceover. Hidden in each set are small LCD screens showing scenes within a scene. (For instance, you'll see a character decorating a tree through a tiny window.) To create the animation, they shot digital video of intricate figures made from paper.

"It's a combination of the artistry of paper and the high technology that really makes it special," said Paul Olszewski, director of windows.

Lord & Taylor, which pioneered the animated window display back in 1938, is hewing to tradition. On Monday, its New York flagship unveiled twelve mechanical tableaus illustrating Christmas traditions. The sets, weighing up to 2000 pounds, were built by hand in a workshop under Fifth Avenue, hauled up to ground level and, in the "unveiling" ceremony, raised up on hydraulic lifts while a children's choir sang. If it was passe, the delighted crowd didn't seem to mind.

— AP Retail Writer Ellen Gibson


Appliance deals abound this black Friday

NEW YORK (AP) — It may not be the most romantic Christmas present, but for those seeking appliances this holiday season, deals are likely to be plentiful.

Both Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Home Depot are already offering discounts on appliances ahead of "Black Friday," the day after Thanksgiving, considered one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Many more deals will be found during the holiday weekend at Walmart, Lowe's, Target, Hhgregg and other retailers.

Craig Johnson, president of retail consultancy Customer Growth Partners, said there will be many deals this year due to oversupply because consumers have been holding back on buying major appliances since the home buyer tax credits ended in April.

"The appliance sector has been basically dead for four or five months. Meanwhile manufacturers ramped up production," Johnson said. "So there's a lot of inventory out there."

Some examples of deals Home Depot is running through Nov. 29: An LG front-loading washer and dryer set, regularly $1,998 for the pair is marked down $800 to $599 each. Another deal: a GE stainless steel refrigerator, regularly $1999, is marked down $601 to $1398.

Meanwhile, Sears is opening at 7 a.m. to noon on Thanksgiving morning offering many doorbusters sales. One deal is a Whirlpool front-load energy efficient washer and dryer, regularly $549 each, on sale for $799.98 for the pair.

And on Black Friday, when Sears opens at 4 a.m., a 25-cubic foot Kenmore refrigerator, regularly $2399, will be marked down by $1,300 to $1,099.99.

But shoppers take note: there will be only two per store, so early rising will be rewarded.

— AP Retail Writer Mae Anderson