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Retailers Expect Big Sales Though Cash For Appliances Program

By Kim Mikus | Daily Herald Staff


Kicking off a federal shopping incentive program Friday, suburban appliance retailers are expecting long lines and hoping for a repeat of the success car dealers saw in the Cash for Clunkers program.

The Cash for Appliances rebate deal is similar to the clunker program in that it's designed to get shoppers back into stores, spending money and helping save on their energy bills.

All shoppers have to do to get a 15 percent rebate, up to $400, is buy a new Energy Star refrigerator, freezer, clothes washer, dishwasher or room air conditioner. Microwaves, stoves and dryers are not included in the offer.

Illinois is set to receive more than $12 million of nearly $300 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Retailers are optimistic.

"We expect it to be a huge sales day. There is a lot of pent-up demand," said Bill Burn, director of sales with Plass Appliances.

Most retailers, preparing for the program since it was announced back in July, are opening stores early for the start of the program.

"This will be the Black Friday of appliances," said Burn, who runs Plass stores in Naperville, Addison, Arlington Heights, Elmhurst and Geneva. "We know it's going to be extremely busy."

And as with the federal funding for the cars program, which ran out almost immediately, retailers wonder if the stimulus funds will last through the day. In an effort to help the dollars last longer, the state of Illinois capped rebates at $400.

"Hopefully this will make the funds last. but the money may be gone Friday," Burn said.

Retailers have been busy fielding phone calls and addressing shoppers' questions about the program.

"I really didn't expect the volume of pre-shopping that we've seen here," said Dan Novak, owner of Novak & Parker in Mount Prospect. "It has been wave after wave of people. It's outstanding."

Several retailers suggest that shoppers arrive to appliance stores early Friday because when the money for rebates runs out, it's gone. The program, which coincides with Earth Day, is scheduled to run through April 25 if the funds last.

Shoppers cannot get the rebates if they shop online. But many retailers, including Sears and Abt Electronics and Appliances in Glenview, have a wealth of information about the program on their Web sites.

"There are a lot of customers doing the research in advance. They are armed with information," said Sears spokesman Larry Costello.

Some economists are watching to see if demand will be as high as anticipated. With high unemployment and foreclosure rates, they ask whether appliances are on suburban shopping lists right now.

Financial Consultant David Klein is not sure how sales will go Friday, but he pointed out that consumer spending has been showing signs of rebounding.

"And consumer sentiment has been improving," said Klein, senior vice president with RBC Wealth Management in Vernon Hills.

He believes consumers are looking for items that they really need after months of holding back on spending.

"If these items fit into their 'need' category, consumers will be inclined to take advantage of the incentive credit," Klein said.

Retailers are also suggesting that shoppers bring patience to the appliance stores. While many stores are opening at 6 a.m., store employees cannot start entering rebate information into the computers until 8 a.m.

"I highly suggest to get into the stores as early as possible and be prepared for lines," Burn said.

© 2010 Paddock Publications, Inc.

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