San Francisco — Noticed anything different about retailing promotions this holiday season? There are some - several, in fact. Many of these come-ons are much more than plain old-fashioned price cuts.
Easier credit. Many major retailers have opened up no-payment-till-February credit arrangements for all types of goods. This deferred-payment approach was formerly used at holiday time for big-ticket appliance and furniture merchandise. In many cases, special temporary ''paper'' charge cards (instead of plastic) are being issued to customers, because today's new credit plans cover all goods.
Another noticeable change is that charge cards are easier to obtain. There are more in-store signs, for example, telling visitors they can open up charge accounts today if they hold other major credit cards in good standing.
Reaching for more sales, some stores are invoicing customer accounts with a printed computerized message telling exactly how much ''open'' credit is available: ''You can now buy an additional $200 on your account with us.''
Sale patterns. To gain heavy sales volume quickly, retailer chains in many metropolitan areas have been promoting merchandise just at their flagship store. This is in direct contrast to former years, when the store-cluster theory allowed all units to gain business from area advertising. According to retail analysts, this is happening because main-store stocks are generally more complete for one-shot promotions and facilities for handling large crowds are better.
And such a sale has become easier for retailers. Literally hundreds of consumer articles can be put on sale all at once because of the computerization of stocks. The register-computers acknowledge the stock number and exact discount amount and produce a final and correct reduced price. Prior to retail computers, changing prices quickly for a sale was cumbersome (''Let's see, how much is 30 percent?'') and often inaccurate.
Free wrap. Over the years, prestige retailers have provided in-store gift wrapping services - but not free. Now, J.C. Penney Company stores are offering gifts which are preboxed and pre-gift-wrapped.