Dry weekend draws shoppers even as online sales boom

CHICAGO (AP) — The driest Thanksgiving weekend in five years may have helped holiday shopping, despite an overall decline in foot traffic. But some shoppers just took notes in the hopes of finding an even better deal online.

That’s a consequence of Amazon continuing to squeeze prices, exacerbating the “showrooming” practice of people getting ideas at brick-and-mortar stores, then buying online.

Heather Just and husband Dominic of Rockford, Illinois, brought their twin 11-year-old boys and 13-year-old son to the giant Water Tower Place on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile on Saturday to see “what their eyes get big about.”

The excursion was more recon mission than shopping spree. “We’re watching, we’re watching,” she told her sons, who focused their attention on a Nintendo Switch portable game console.


Amazon continues to beat prices at other retailers in many cases, according to marketing technology company Boomerang Commerce.

For example, it pointed out that Amazon cut prices on Beats Solo 3 wireless headphones. The Associated Press found them on Amazon selling for $200, $10 below BestBuy.com, and $40 below the Black Friday deal at Target.

But Walmart isn’t far behind in high-tech price matching. Following its purchase of Jet.com last year for $3.3 billion, the company can now quickly ratchet prices down on popular items using machine-learning algorithms, while maintaining profit margins on lesser-trafficked items.

The technology has set up Walmart and Amazon for a “clash of the titans” in online sales where consumer perceptions of prices are formed, according to Boomerang’s vice president of marketing, Gary Liu.

“You can’t compete in the same way you did before,” Liu said.


Steve Hagan, a general contractor from Richmond, Kentucky, said his 9-year-old son, Luke, and 8-year-old daughter, Lauren, used their own money and gift cards to buy toys on a Chicago shopping trip from the Star Wars and Bitty Baby brands. But he was keeping track of where Santa could digitally fill in the blanks.

“That baby doll may need some accessories and I had to ask Luke which Star Wars character he was getting and which one he already has,” said Hagan, adding that he’ll shop online later. “I’m taking notes.”

Lisa Stripling, of South Bend, Indiana, said her goal was to see what her 3 1/2-year-old grandson Max liked and buy it online.

“I used to do most of my shopping in stores and now it’s 75 percent online and 25 percent in the stores,” she said.