NEW YORK (AP) -- A last-minute shopper knew she'd find some irresistible deals today.
Barbara Rice said says she's seen lots of items marked down by as much as 75 percent at a mall in Baltimore. Her daughter wasn't even planning on getting anything -- at least until she saw sales on cell phones, video game systems, and shoes.
The deep discounts are drawing in customers, but analysts say that may not be enough to offset what's expected to be the worst holiday sales season in decades.
Merchants desperate to pull in shoppers started discounting holiday goods last month. But except for a shopping binge on the day after Thanksgiving, Americans have remained tight-fisted. When they do buy, they are looking for small-ticket, more practical gifts.
A lot's at stake. The holiday shopping season accounts for as much as 40 percent of annual profits for many retailers, and the earnings outlook is growing more dire every week.