By  on November 29, 2005

NEW YORK — Wal-Mart, J.C. Penney, Kohl's and Abercrombie & Fitch could be among the winners this holiday season, according to several analysts' reports filed since Black Friday.

Wal-Mart was the most aggressive promoter, Abercrombie & Fitch saw the most robust business at full-price and electronics was the standout category, according to a Goldman Sachs & Co. recap of the winners and losers of Black Friday weekend, which was among the most promotional and carefully staged in years.

Goldman said Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister saw the most robust business at full-price over the weekend, but added that Gap Inc. brands suffered from "anemic traffic trends despite stepped-up promos."

Deborah Weinswig, Citigroup's broadlines retailing analyst, characterized Black Friday 2005 as "less about bling and more about bang for the buck." In her report, she said, "Our extensive across-the-country Black Friday store checks indicate that compelling prices and hard-hitting marketing of key items drove customers to the stores, resulting in a solid start to the 2005 holiday shopping season."

She listed the hottest categories as consumer electronics, toys, kitchen electrics and cold-weather apparel, which was "aggressively priced and promoted." Gift cards were also big, she noted.

She explained that J. C. Penney, Kohl's and Wal-Mart should do well this holiday due to a combination of aggressive marketing and promoting and trend-right merchandise.

While retailing nationwide was marked by fierce promoting, Merrill Lynch said: "There was nothing that appeared to be last minute. Aéropostale's 50 percent off the entire store seemed to be the most effective." Merrill cited cooler-weather outerwear, cold-weather accessories, electronic accessories (such as iPod holders) and accessories as bestsellers.

Some analysts described this season as being "back loaded" with potential, since Christmas Eve falls on a Saturday, giving consumers most of the weekend before the holiday to last-minute shop. Also, there are 30 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, versus 29 last year. According to Goldman, "With mounting gasoline pressures having reversed course, home heating bills yet to hit and hurricane shock wearing off,, customer appetite might be stronger than we had expected."

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