Fighting for shoppers this holiday

KING OF PRUSSIA - November 14, 2008 - But Philadelphia-area retailers are not giving up the fight.

The common wisdom is that cash-strapped consumers will buy less and shift to discounters this holiday season.

"I think retailers that will do the best are the low-end retailers, the Wal-Marts of the world, the Dollar General, the Family Dollar," said Scott Testa of St. Joseph's University.

So, where does that leave more upscale retailers?

At the King of Prussia Mall, high-end shops are working to keep customers loyal by offering quality products for sale...early.

"They are having a lot more sales, and we're seeing that launch earlier in the season, where typically they would have waited until Black Friday," said King of Prussia marketing manager Mark Bachus.

American Apparel manager Christianne Clymer sees a shift from past years.

"I think people are more aware of what they are buying, to make sure they are getting value for their money," Clymer said.

A second element: Service. The mall is doubling its customer service reps, betting one-on-one help in finding that right item will lure shoppers, as will a free shuttle over its sprawling grounds.

They're also offering e-mail updates on deals.

"They have to keep sending big discounts, I think that's the key," said shopper Julia Saylor of Rosemont, Pa. "They have to let us know."

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