Was holiday 2010 the most promotional ever?

RetailWire panelists weighed in (just before Christmas) about the promotional pace this season. My take…there are plenty of ways to save above and beyond the “standard” 50% off discount, but the pace seemed pretty consistent with 2009 promotional levels:

There are plenty of extra savings to be had, especially for department stores’ proprietary cardholders, on top of the deep discounts being offered. So it’s not just “50% off” but potentially “50 + 20%” depending on which card you use, which coupon you clip and which hours you shop. Nevertheless, the pace of these types of discounts looks pretty similar to 2009, with the profit outcome dependent on top-line sales and clean inventories going into the first quarter. And the unusually cold weather across the country is probably helping to drive down inventories of seasonal goods at exactly the right time.

With all the promotional noise right now, it’s a smart tactic for stores to differentiate themselves through convenience. This may mean extended hours, more sales associates on hand, more efficient checkout lanes or — most importantly — good in stock. The customer will reward the stores that handled her time — not just her budget — most efficiently this month.

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