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Macy's and Target sales hope to draw cautious consumers

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Mark Lennihan/AP/File

(Read caption) In this March 3 file photo, a woman shops for beach towels at Century 21 department store, in New York. Retailers like Macy's and Target are offering deep discounts to get shoppers through the doors.

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Retailers are eager to shake off June’s dismal retail numbers, so they're launching mid-season sales to attract shoppers.

Macy’s launched a storewide summer clearance Tuesday, offering shoppers up to 50 percent off select merchandise, and Toys R Us is offering deals of the day and free shipping to online shoppers through Saturday.

The sales come on top of other retailers’ efforts to reel in Christmas shoppers (very) early with Christmas in July sales. Sears is going the extra mile, pumping holiday tunes through its stores this month, and setting up a ‘Christmas Lane,’ where shoppers can buy ornaments and holiday-themed toys. Target is offering a premature 'Black Friday' sale this week, offering deep discounts for online shoppers.

Stores are also pushing layaway options so consumers can start putting money down for more pricey gift items.

The promotions show that retailers are eager to move inventory in time for Labor Day and back to school sales, which will start next month.

The timing is not necessarily unusual, but the aggressiveness of the promotions – particularly how much retailers are willing to discount summer items – is, says Doug Fleener, president and managing partner of Dynamic Experiences Group, a Massachusetts-based retail consultant.

“We’re in a funky place right now,” says Mr. Fleener. “People are opening their wallets, but they’re still cautious about it. [Retailers] have to motivate that consumer to come into the store.”

Small, independent retailers are less able to mark down prices with big clearance sales, but most have been careful to stock fewer items, so stores are unlikely to see massive inventory surpluses like they have the last few years.

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US retail sales fell 0.5 percent in June – the second consecutive month of flagging sales.


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