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The holiday shopping season is officially under way, and following soft sales over Thanksgiving weekend, the International Council of Shopping Centers has cut its November forecast for same-store sales. However, ICSC chief economist Michael Niemira noted that in a recent poll, fewer shoppers have completed their shopping in November (42%) compared with last year (48%), so holiday buying this month could boost December's numbers.
Still, with the economy in recession and the unemployment rate rising to 10.2% -- the highest since April 1983 -- big-box retailers such as Target (NYSE: TGT ) , Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) , Best Buy (NYSE: BBY ) , Sears Holdings' (Nasdaq: SHLD ) Sears stores, Costco (Nasdaq: COST ) , and Kohl's (NYSE: KSS ) will need to step up the competition, or they could be in trouble.
Speaking of competition, Fool writer Alyce Lomax points out that Wal-Mart recently "threw down the gauntlet" for the holiday season, in announcing that it won't be beaten on price. In addition, the retail giant has apparently announced that, for the first time, it's offering installation as an extra on TV and computer purchases. That move steps directly on the toes of Best Buy, which has consistently offered this service.
Best Buy plans to handle the new competition through "connectivity," which means connecting all the electronic gadgets in your life (mobile services, satellite TV, and digital photography). According to Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn, connectivity carries higher margins and has more potential than sales of consumer electronics, which are expected to fall by 7.7% this year.
Does Best Buy have a chance this holiday season, or will Wal-Mart once again stomp out the competition? And for the long term, is Dunn on to something with this idea of connectivity?
Let us know what you think it the comments box below.