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Attention, Holiday Shoppers

The favorite department and discount store destinations for gift shopping this holiday season.

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If you happen to have done some shopping over the past few weekends, perhaps you noticed the holiday decorations sneaking their way onto the shelves, or the carols beginning to blare over the loudspeakers. Yes, that time of year has arrived once again, and the question is: Where do consumers plan to shop for gifts? In its holiday Gift Tracker survey, Stevens, Pa.-based Unity Marketing asked respondents to select their favorite department and discount store destinations for their gifts this season. Unity Marketing found a holiday shopper is expected to spend $949 on presents this year, up 9.1 percent from the average of $870 spent in 2005. Below, a look at the top dogs of each of the store types, and what they are doing to prepare for the holiday craze.

Department Stores

J.C. PENNEY
Percentage of respondents who will likely buy holiday gifts here: 14
Earlier this month, Myron “Mike” Ullman 3rd, chairman and chief executive officer, said the Plano, Tex.-based chain is gearing up for the holiday season with its Red Box Gifts program. “The four major categories are electronics and innovations, cozy at home, jewelry and watches and toys,” he said, saying the program is designed to let customers know what gifts are key for the season. Featured items include a women”s red cashmere sweater with ruffled-edge sleeves, a diamond accent circle pendant and iPod cases. In addition, staff wearing red aprons will have a specialized knowledge of each gift idea to help customers with their purchases. The chain is planning to implement a quicker checkout process for the items, as well.

MACY”S
Percentage
: 11
Last week, Terry Lundgren, chairman and ceo, said in a statement, “We continue to view 2006 as a transition year…notably a transition of more than 400 stores to the Macy”s nameplate. With a new brand structure now fully in place, we look forward to a successful holiday selling season.” The Macy”s Herald Square location in New York is showing off its festive spirit with its annual holiday window displays. Macy”s began this tradition in 1862, and this year the windows will allow spectators to participate in the displays by touching special pads that activate animations and other features. And only at Macy”s Herald Square would one find a toy store among its fashion apparel and accessories offerings.

SEARS
Percentage
: 7
WWD reported at the end of October that Sears Holdings Corp. has created a Web site for moms as a “one-stop resource for all of her holiday needs.” The site, readysetholiday.com, is available to shoppers Nov. 1 through Jan. 12 and will provide gift-giving suggestions, decorating tips and other online specials. The site offers electronics, holiday decorations, kitchen items, home furnishings and apparel, among other products. In terms of apparel, popular brands such as Levi”s, Danskin, Apostrophe and Dockers are available at Sears.

NORDSTROM
Percentage
: 3
“One of the interesting results from this study is that nowadays, consumers want a better shopping experience overall,” said Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing. “They”re not interested in running around a huge store dealing with a crowd during the holidays. Places like Nordstrom offer a more intimate, more personal, more fun shopping experience.” A few notable limited-edition holiday gift items from the upscale department store include Narciso Rodriguez”s For Her eau de toilette fragrance, T3″s Winter Wanderer Travel Tote and the Shu Uemura 24-karat gold eyelash curler. The Seattle-based company also recently began pumping up the designer collections area of its Web site, according to WWD.

DILLARD”S
Percentage
: 3
On Tuesday, WWD said Dillard”s sales of lingerie and accessories “significantly exceeded” the company”s performance for the three months ended Oct. 28. Dillard”s said it remains committed to positioning the merchandise to a more upscale and contemporary customer, one who is “seeking exciting statements in fashion.” Brands such as DKNY, Oscar de la Renta, Calvin Klein and Ellen Tracy offer plenty of apparel for the fashionista this holiday season. The retailer”s current campaign “Dillard”s — The Style of Your Life,” launched last August, will continue through the holiday season. The campaign features Dillard”s fashion merchandise in a variety of lifestyle scenarios, distributed through multiple media channels.

Discount Stores

WAL-MART
Percentage of respondents who will likely buy holiday gifts here
: 35
Let the pricing wars begin. WWD reported this month that following a few merchandising setbacks and some disappointing sales numbers, Wal-Mart executives said the company intends to implement its most aggressive pricing strategy ever for the holidays. Gift-givers seem to like this idea, as they have selected Wal-Mart as the top discounter this season. For the holidays, the retailer already has begun rolling back prices in core categories such as toys and electronics. Wal-Mart”s “Be Bright” marketing and advertising campaign launched Nov. 1 and focuses on value fashion. The company hopes apparel brands such as Faded Glory, No Boundaries, George and Exsto, its hip-hop inspired men”s clothing line, will attract consumers.

TARGET
Percentage: 23
Target has already gotten the jump on the season with its festive Web site. The site has an additional feature that provides product availability at specific stores — clearly in an effort to increase customer purchases. On Wednesday, WWD reported that Robert Ulrich, Target”s chairman and ceo, stated, “We expect the holiday season to be [intensely] competitive, and, as a result, we have planned our business to drive traffic and generate profitable sales.” And according to Greg Steinhafel, president, popular items this holiday will include “stylish handbags, clutch purses and gloves in both day and night designs.”

KOHL”S
Percentage
: 11
Earlier this month, Kohl”s reported October comps gained 4.2 percent. Larry Montgomery, chairman and ceo, said in a statement, “We believe we are well-positioned for the upcoming holiday season.” Through Nov. 18, Kohl”s is holding a “Secret Santa Sale,” offering deep discounts on products from women”s apparel, shoes and accessories to home furnishings and electronics. Also during the holiday season, 100 percent of profits from customers” purchases of items in the “Kohl”s Cares for Kids” collection will support health and education opportunities for children. The holiday collection includes plush animals and Dr. Seuss books.

KMART
Percentage
: 6
In addition to plenty of holiday decorations, items that might catch shoppers” eyes this season at Kmart include the Paris Hilton Women”s Fragrance Gift Set and sleepwear sets from Joe Boxer. Beginning Sunday, Kmart will support “KartWheels for Kids” through Dec. 20. Customers will be encouraged to donate a new toy to a child attending a local Boys & Girls Club every time they visit a Kmart store. The retailer is hoping to acquire extra donations with a series of print ads, in-store signage and through its Web site. The discount retailer carries products sold under labels such as Jaclyn Smith, Joe Boxer, Route 66 and Martha Stewart Everyday.

SAM”S CLUB
Percentage
: 5
Sam”s Club, a division of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., is the nation”s largest warehouse chain. Coming this week for the retailer: the annual Holiday Taste of Sam”s Club event, held from Nov. 17 to 19, where menu, recipe and gift-giving ideas for entertaining will be on tap. Earlier this month, Sam”s revealed its 2006 holiday catalogue, which included one-of-a-kind gift options, such as the Tranquility 7-Person Spa for $3,998, or an 18-carat Tanzanite diamond necklace — priced at $28,000.

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