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N.J. retailers expect holiday traffic similar to 2011

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Retailers are trying to train their customers to do their holiday shopping through Thanksgiving weekend, as the weekend before Christmas has overtaken the tradition of doing most shopping from Black Friday through Cyber Monday.

Matthew Harding, president and CEO of North Plainfield-based Levin Management, said the company's annual survey of retail tenants showed most are expecting the peak of holiday traffic to occur the weekend before Christmas instead of the last weekend of November. Nearly 60 percent of all Levin tenants expect their peak sales period to occur between Dec. 15 and 23.

"There has been a decline in the importance of Black Friday," Harding said. "Customers have been trained to wait to shop," when items are more heavily discounted.

Harding said the increase in the number of retailers opening Thanksgiving night, and the extension of Black Friday prices through the weekend are all tactics being used to encourage shoppers to start early. Harding said the most important part of getting customers in earlier in the season is to move inventory faster and establish anticipated margins earlier.

According to the Levin survey, 68 percent of the company's tenants will be stocking up with the same amount or more inventory compared to 2011. Apparel retailers are most confident of an increase in sales, with 91 percent of the company's apparel-related retailers signaling a similar or better holiday season this year.

Retail experts BDO USA anticipate Friday's sales to top the 2011 Black Friday totals by 3.1 percent, mirroring the anticipated annual growth for the entire holiday season.

Harding said he believes, like 2011, actual sales will outpace expectations, especially once shoppers get enticed into stores by promotions and other goods.

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