Retailers, getting creative, are trying to move beyond holiday price wars

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For major retailers, the holiday shopping season over the past few years has really been about one thing: the clearance sale.

Led by Amazon and Walmart, retailers have slashed prices to win as much market share as possible during the critical four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. By January, profit margins have all but disappeared.

The relentless discounting makes for good optics but lousy retailing. Yes, companies may have temporarily boosted sales, but over the long term, they have only conditioned consumers to expect even deeper price cuts the next time around. Instead of inspiring delight and loyalty, retailers have focused on getting the sale — literally at any cost.

“Retailers realize that their backs are up against the wall,” said Pano Anthos, founder and managing director of XRC Labs retail incubator in New York. Retailers, he said, must start experimenting now to remain relevant in the future, even if it doesn’t pay off immediately.

“There is no shiny object that's going to make your sales go through the roof,” Anthos said. “This is about making small, incremental gains that you can apply everywhere.”

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Nancy Geduldxrc