According to a report in the Tennessean retail sales in October through December are expected to grow a meager 1.5 percent over last year, the weakest in 17 years, as shoppers pressured by a troubled economy curb spending, according to a forecast by Columbus, Ohio-based TNS Retail Forward consultants. Some Nashville-area retailers paint an equally gloomy picture.
\"We\'re barely above water,\" said Tony Owen, manager of Hickory Hollow Mall\'s Dress Code, where sales are down 30 percent and his apparel store is almost $20,000 in debt.
In response to the sour economic headlines, retailers plan to hire fewer seasonal employees, streamline or reduce inventory and ramp up discounts.
Other shop owners and chain stores say they\'ll focus on a handful of must-have gifts such as electronics and educational toys or offer enticements like discounted online shipping and free-of-charge $10 gift cards mailed in bulk to lure shoppers to their aisles.
But it\'s likely to be an austere season. \"It\'s going to be pretty impossible for retailers to have any positive retail sales,\" said Britt Beemer, chairman of Charleston, S.C.-based America\'s Research Group. \"I think mall retail stores are going to be challenged like never before this year, and the question is how many of them will make it.\"
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