Stores push deals, hope to lure shoppers for holiday stretch

NEW YORK (AP) — Stores are pushing deals and incentives like free shipping for the final week of the holiday shopping season, as new numbers show people are spending at a bit of a slower pace than last year.

Retailers pared down their inventories and offered more exclusive merchandise in a bid to avoid having to offer big discounts that shoppers have come to expect. But customers seem willing to wait, and stores are once again counting on last-minute buyers for the final stretch, particularly Saturday, which could be the busiest day of the year.

Research firm First Data says retail spending is up 2 percent, slightly slower the 2.4 percent gain at this time last year, with the rate of online spending far outpacing buying at physical stores from Oct. 29 through Monday.