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Some stores’ post-Christmas sales start before holiday

It’s beginning to look a lot like ... the day after Christmas?

On the day before Christmas, retailers turned shoppers’ attention to the day after the holiday.

Amazon.com already was offering “after Christmas” deals of up to 70 percent off clothes and 60 percent off some electronics. Old Navy was running TV ads that its “after-holiday sale starts early” with discounts of up to 75 percent off. And CVS was selling a wine cabinet for $10 off at $39.99 and three fleece throws for $9.99 on Christmas Eve.

Heather Nadler, 38, stopped by the CVS in Decatur, Ga., on Tuesday, searching for stuffed animals for her children. But she still plans to hit up sales after Christmas.

“I’ll probably start shopping for me at that point,” she said.

Stores usually wait until after Christmas to offer discounts of 70 percent or more on holiday merchandise that didn’t sell. But Americans still worried about the economy have held tightly to their purse strings this year, and store sales have fallen for the past three weeks.

The pre-Christmas deals come as retailers are feeling pressure to attract Americans into stores during the final week of what’s typically the busiest shopping period of the year. The two-month stretch that begins on Nov. 1 is important because retailers can make up to 40 percent of their annual sales during that time.

Sales at U.S. stores dropped 3.1 percent to $42.7 billion for the week that ended Sunday compared with the same week last year, according to ShopperTrak, which tracks data at 40,000 locations. That follows a decline of 2.9 percent and 0.8 percent the first and second weeks of the month, respectively.

Stores had a problem getting Americans into stores. The number of shoppers fell 21.2 percent in the week that ended Sunday, according to ShopperTrak.

Karen McDonald, a spokeswoman at Taubman Centers, which owns or operates 28 malls, estimated that business for the week that ended Sunday was unchanged to mid-single-digit percentage growth compared with a year ago. McDonald said business “was just OK.”

The National Retail Federation, the nation’s largest retail group, was sticking with its forecast that sales in stores and online will be up 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion.

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