Retail chains use promotions to fight post-Black Friday blues

, Bloomberg

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Gap Inc.'s Banana Republic is giving away Ghirardelli chocolates and six Fiat 500s in the first 12 days of December as U.S. retailers fight the holiday shopping lull that typically follows the Black Friday weekend.

Banana Republic, which has boosted sales this year through partnerships with the "Mad Men" television show and designer Trina Turk, will offer new discounts and gifts each day for its "12 Days of Joy" promotion, San Francisco-based Gap said in an e-mail. J.C. Penney Co. started a 12-day "holiday giving tour" Tuesday, with plans to give out firewood and cashmere scarves, while Target Corp. and Neiman Marcus Group Inc. are waiting until Dec. 1 to release a limited-edition designer collection.

Retailers are aiming to keep shoppers interested during the traditional slowdown between now and the final shopping days before Christmas, particularly after Black Friday deals this year moved into Thanksgiving and earlier.

"You just can't all keep competing on price all the time," Barbara Kahn, a marketing professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, said in a telephone interview. Luring consumers outside major shopping days takes exclusive products or "customer experiences or 'gifts' that encourage people to come in," she said.

U.S. retail sales rose 13 percent to $59.1 billion in the four days starting Nov. 22 after a 16 percent increase in the similar period last year, according to the National Retail Federation. Sales on Black Friday declined 1.8 percent to $11.2 billion, according to researcher ShopperTrak.

Banana Republic's exclusive collections and partnerships with brands such as airline Virgin America Inc. this year helped sales rise 8 percent to $1.98 billion in the three quarters ended Oct. 27, making up 18 percent of Gap's year-to-date revenue.

Banana Republic's "12 Days of Joy" promotion was created to "give our customers something extra, while keeping the momentum going beyond Black Friday," Global Chief Marketing Officer Catherine Sadler said in an e-mailed response to questions.

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