The economy is giving retailers a lump of coal in their stocking and that means they'll have to play Santa to shoppers by staging an extremely promotional Christmas season.

In a nation of tapped out consumers, the overall picture at retail has really become a "half-and-half" story. Half of are us struggling with our finances and half of us are thriving. That's made retailers wheeze all around, with Wal-mart recently reporting an uncharacteristic decline in same-store sales. And the same trend is playing out across the retail landscape. Simply put, business has been lousy!

Unfortunately, retailers have already placed orders for upcoming Christmas stock months ago. It's baked in the cake because of the long lead time that's necessary for the Chinese factories to ramp up production for whatever a given holiday season's hot items will be.

So the electronics, clothing, and giftware of all kinds that are going to be in the stores this Christmas are already on order. In some cases, the goods may have even arrived. I was in Costco last month and they had four aisles of toys in the center of the store just sitting there as if to announce a very early start to Christmas shopping season.

The nation's two titans of retail, Walmart and Target, are both reporting anemic numbers. The people who are going out to stores are buying necessities only, not higher margin goods. So if you see something in the store and it just seems too expensive, wait. You'll get better deals all the way until right after Thanksgiving, when the shopping actually gets much more expensive. But through the fall, it's going to be bargains, bargains, bargains!

Image of Clark Howard About the author: Clark Howard

Clark Howard is a consumer expert whose goal is to help you keep more of the money you make. His national radio show and website show you ways to save more, spend less and avoid getting ripped off. View More Articles

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