Holiday spending is up but consumers remain cautious about economy


Dec. 9, 2010 at 6:09 a.m.
Updated Dec. 10, 2010 at 6:10 a.m.

Ruby Barnette and Esmeralda Alvarez, right, shop around the gift shop Rings N Things in Victoria looking for Christmas ornaments on Thursday.

Ruby Barnette and Esmeralda Alvarez, right, shop around the gift shop Rings N Things in Victoria looking for Christmas ornaments on Thursday.

Rings N Things was bustling Thursday as customers browsed items and employees prepared for the business' customer appreciation day.

And, although it might have made for a busy day, that's good, said Sandra Hiller, who owns the boutique. Retailers like being busy during the holidays.

"The season seems to be going pretty well," Hiller said, explaining sales so far appear to be ahead of 2009's holiday season. "People seem to be in the Christmas spirit. But they're still kind of being careful."

And Rings N Things isn't alone.

Spending is up for the 2010 holiday shopping season, but many remain cautious with their spending.

Nationwide, people will spend an average $518.08 on gifts, according to a National Retail Federation news release. That's a 2.1 percent increase from 2009.

Consumers are taking steps toward a "new normal," said Matthew Shay, retail federation president and CEO, in the release.

"As Americans open up their wallets for more discretionary gifts like jewelry or take advantage of sales to buy for themselves, retailers will begin to truly believe that the worst may be behind them," he said.

A BIGresearch study conducted for the federation indicated that 61.7 percent of the more than 8,000 respondents predicted the economy would have an impact on their spending, a decrease from last year's 65.3 percent. People said they would compensate by spending less, comparing prices and using coupons.

That same survey included other indicators that shoppers feel they have a bit more breathing room this holiday season.

The number of people who plan to purchase items from discounters was 65.1 percent, versus last year's 70.1 percent, according to the news release. Also, the average amount people plan to spend on themselves during holiday sales rose to $107.50 this year, versus 2009's $101.37.

It's difficult to determine exactly how retail sales fare at this point, said Melissa Foeh, who owns Maditay's in Victoria. Although sales appear to be about level with previous years, the season doesn't typically pick up until the last two weeks or so in December.

"That's when it starts to get a little crazy," she said, adding that jewelry and Yellow Box shoes are her stores's biggest sellers so far.

Pat McDonald owns Days Gone Bye and agreed that the days just before Christmas are busiest. She said she's already noticed an increase in sales compared to last year, however.

"The season's going great," she said in between helping customers. "It started the day after Thanksgiving and it started gradually escalating then."

Pandora jewelry is the store's biggest seller but a variety things like bath and body products have gone over big, McDonald said.

James Ellis, a Victoria father of three, got most of his shopping finished on Black Friday. He mainly purchased electronics, he said, and was able to save a couple hundred dollars at the sales.

Although it's always nice to save money, the Formosa employee said the economy didn't play a major role in his spending.

"We're not really cutting back," he said. "The economy, although things hit pretty hard in other places, over here, we're pretty steady."



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