Canadian retailers are getting ready for the holiday season with rock-bottom prices and major promotional campaigns in hopes that shoppers will open their wallets and seize the opportunity to save.

Both U.S.-based retailing giant Wal-Mart and Sears Canada have unveiled campaigns centred around lower prices, particularly on bigger ticket items like iPods, LCD televisions, Blu-Ray players and cooking sets.

The price cuts come at a time when Canadians are not exactly in a mood to part with their cash — a recent consumer confidence study from research firm TNS suggests an increasing number of gift buyers are planning to put off major purchases.

The report indicates consumers are expected to tighten their spending habits to the lowest levels in four years, with about one-third of those surveyed expecting to spend less on gifts and other purchases during the holidays than last year.

Those weaker expectations have persisted throughout the industry in recent months, with many retailers complaining that sales have remained stagnant since the startup of holiday shopping weeks ago.

Among those considering price cuts, supermarket giant Loblaw said earlier this week that it’s slashing prices, and could cut them even further, as it attempts to ramp up its competitive position in the marketplace.

Meanwhile, Wal-Mart says it will cut the prices of more than 18,000 items this month, which it says amounts to 20 per cent more cuts than at the same time last year.

“We know this has been a tough year for Canadians, so we have made every effort to drop our prices and help Canadians make their dollars go farther this holiday season,” said David Cheesewright, the president and CEO of the retail giant’s Canadian operations.

“In every department in our stores — from electronics to toys to housewares to food — we offer everyday low prices as well as special holiday pricing.”

Discounted items include a Samsung home theatre DVD and sound system for $296, about $100 off the previous price, and a Rachel Ray stainless steel cookware set for $169.97, about $60 lower than the original price.

Sears Canada has launched a Boxing Day prices campaign that will include reductions on several items for three days this weekend, while some stores will stay open for extended hours.
A Panasonic Viera 42-inch Plasma TV will sell for $979.99, a savings of $220, while Sears will offer a Craftsman Electric Snowblower for $299.99, taking $200 off the regular price.

On Wednesday, Sears Canada reported third-quarter net earnings of $47.1 million, down from a year-ago profit of $59.3 million, sending its shares to close five per cent higher to $24.45 on the Toronto stock market.

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