Wednesday, November 26, 2014
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Shoppers not buying less but not buying more

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A manager helps a customer check out at the Bibelot Shop in St. Paul. (MPR Photo/Elizabeth Stawicki)
The day after Thanksgiving isn't necessarily the busiest shopping day of the holiday season. But it is an important one for retailers. This year the predictions on how much shoppers will spend run the gamut. The University of Michigan shows consumer confidence is up while the University of St. Thomas finds it's down. Shoppers in one St.Paul neighborhood shared thoughts about their buying habits this season.

St. Paul, Minn. — Joan Little manages the Bibelot Shop on St. Paul's Grand Avenue. The Bibelot sells specialty gifts, clothes and cards and on this day appeared to be doing a good business. There were people in the store and they were buying. Little says that's cause for cautious optimism.

"When you look at the entire year there have been some down times. But if you're talking about the holiday season, it feels like it's going good right now. So it's hard to know. It's hard to be in that predicting role." says Little.

If there was any thread that connected shoppers it was this: None said they'd be spending MORE than last season or even from previous years. Judy Ford says she's going to try to keep a limit on her spending because she's newly retired.

"I'm on a fixed (income). So that's definitely affecting the monetary amount which I didn't have to cope with last year. In that respect it might be a little bit less or more carefully chosen rather than two or three gifts per person maybe one," Ford says.

Another shopper, Elizabeth said she's also looking at spending less, but that it's been a trend in her home for the past few years. She says she wants to teach her children to help others at Christmas time. So Elizabeth says her family donates to charities rather than spending more money on gifts.

I know this year there's been so many terrible things happen...I think at holiday time we just try to remember what's important...
- Shopper Judy Miller

"It's about the same. I'm always trying to cut down. As I'm getting older I'm realizing that I need less and other people need more," she says.

Those that predicted downturns this holiday season did so based on donations to victims of hurricane Katrina and rising fuel prices. Shopper Judy Miller says neither will affect her buying this season.

"I know this year there's been so many terrible things happen, that we've all tried to give more. But I think at the holiday time we just try to remember what's important and get little symbolic things of that. I'm a new grandma so I have to get a lot for the baby that will be more," Miller says.

But what about toys, that Christmas mainstay? Just down the block is a specialty toy store, Creative Kidstuff.

Sarah is looking at toys for her niece. She describes herself as a cheapskate but echoes what other shoppers have said. She's not buying less, but not buying more.

"So many people have so many things. And I’m more concerned about too much stuff going into landfills and stuff like that. I'm probably going to spend the same amount this year as I do every year," she says.

Manager Barbara Koziol says the start to the holiday shopping season has been slow due to the weather. With temperatures in the 60's, it's been hard to get consumers interested in the holidays. Nevertheless, she doesn't believe Katrina or any other disaster will make a difference.

"There always seemed to have been something. And you know we were scared after 9/11 when everything went down and then there was something else that happened and now people are worried about fuel prices. It always seems like there's something but we've just been fine," Koziol says.

A recent forecast by the University of St. Thomas predicted sales in the Twin Cities would be down this year by about six percent. The forecast said lower income households were more likely to cut their holiday spending because of higher prices for gasoline and home heating fuel.

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