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Slash and sell

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

STATEWIDE  Chris Sherland recognizes trouble when he sees it.

“It’s a weak year for the retail industry,” says Sherland, a senior analyst with global valuation real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield. “And we could see fourth-quarter sales that resemble those of 2001 or 2002.”

So what’s an Oregon retailer to do in order to keep out of the red this holiday season?

“A combination of both promotions and deep discounting,” says Sherland.

One company planning a holiday offense is Medford-based gourmet purveyor Harry & David, which is lowering delivery and processing charges on most orders. Not included in the deal, though, are the company’s famous Fruit of the Month Club gifts. But the country’s largest and oldest direct marketer expects nearly 90% of its orders to cost less.

But local luxury chocolatier Moonstruck Chocolates begs to differ: It won’t be cutting prices as a way to cope with the downturn. The strategy?

“It’s about providing the right product and proper service,” says Moonstruck CEO Dan Hossley.

Though projections indicate a 2.2% increase in Oregon’s retail holiday sales, Sherland remains pessimistic “because of what we’ve been seeing recently.”

The state reported 7,300 jobs lost in September, keeping the unemployment rate above 6%. Teamed with market woes and high gas prices, that could mean fewer shoppers spending less money.

“It’s going to be interesting,” says Sherland.  “[Retailers] are going to try anything to move inventory.”                             

CHRIS MILLER


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