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Holiday Shopping Season Is Under Way

November 25, 1994

Undated (AP) _ Their Thanksgiving turkey barely digested, shoppers got a pre-dawn jump on Christmas shopping today as retailers marked the traditional opening of the 1994 holiday gift-buying season.

Carolyn and Kenneth Perry and Pam Pipkin emerged from a Wal-Mart store in Franklin, Tenn., early this morning with their Christmas shopping completed.

Mrs. Perry and Ms. Pipkin decided to get their shopping out of the way on their way to work. They had three shopping baskets filled.

″This is a neat way to get shopping done without children,″ Ms. Pipkin of Spring Hill, Tenn, said.

The store had opened early at 4 a.m. The Perrys, from Thompson Station, Tenn., said they spent a little more than $300 and Ms. Pipkin spent more than $500.

Outside Nashville, Mary Sheffield of Chapel Hill and two friends were parked outside a department store in CoolSprings Galleria before stores opened. Sheffield said she had ″600 dollars to spend on clothes, toys, a TV and a bicycle.″

In Laurel, Md., more than 100 holiday shoppers were lined up outside the Wal-Mart store before sun-up.

″I automatically popped up early this morning for the sales,″ said Pat Waddle of Laurel. ″I’m just shopping. I’ve finished all of my Christmas shopping and just came up to find out what else I can get on sale.″

In south central Los Angeles, the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza warmed up shoppers with a morning parade,

″So far, so good,″ said Gena Davis, assistant marketing director. ″All the merchants are gearing up, and they’re ready and they’re excited.″

But on New York’s Fifth Avenue, tourist Helen Reynolds of London wondered what the fuss was all about.

″This isn’t crowded compared to London,″ she said. ″You should see the first day of sales in London, they sleep in the streets.″

A line of cars stretched for a mile to get into the Franklin Mills Mall in northeast Philadelphia before its 7 a.m. opening. Rain dampened the mood of early shoppers in West Virginia but 50-degree temperature readings in St. Louis brought people out in shorts.

The season may offer consumers a good deal on gifts. Stores were stocked with merchandise promising value, including marked-down clothes that shoppers have ignored during the warmer-than-usual autumn.

Some stores like Kmart and the electronics chain Nobody Beats The Wiz in the East opened on Thanksgiving, but most other stores were opening earlier than usual today for the traditional start of the shopping season.

The consensus among retail industry analysts and consultants is that consumers will spend 5.5 percent to 6.5 percent more on Christmas than they did a year ago. The top-selling gifts this season are expected to be items for the home, such as electronics, big-screen TVs and glassware and other tabletop items.

For children, of course, it’s toys, and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers are expected to be the best seller in that category.

Retailers are trying to outdo one another with the best prices on all kinds of merchandise. But shoppers may find the best deals on women’s clothes, which are discounted because of the warm weather that has lingered in many areas and left retailers with much of their winter inventory.

While this weekend traditionally is the busiest in the retail year, most consumers are again expected to wait until the last 10 days before Christmas to go shopping.

This phenomenon has grown partly from the fact that working parents have less time to shop and often procrastinate. But it also results from the cat- and-mouse game shoppers and retailers play, with customers holding out till prices fall and storeowners giving in.

Catalog customers have already been on the phone placing their orders, but their peak shopping period won’t come until early December. With more mail order companies using faster delivery through FedEx and other overnight couriers, it’s no longer necessary to do catalog shopping so early.

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