Retailers brace for holidays

-A A +A
By Nathan L. McBroom

What do you get when you mix a lousy economy with the boxes, ribbons and bags of the holiday retail season?


Becky Johnson is calling it "Christmas lite."

Johnson, a mother of two, said she will still buy presents for her family this year, but the amount she spends will be significantly less.

"My kids know to expect less under the tree this year," she said. "They know that we've got a budget, and we have to survive after holidays are over. But they're teenagers...so it's harder for them to accept."

If the holiday economic forecast holds true, Christmas lite could be celebrated at millions of homes across the nation this year.

And that's at the end of a year that has been more naughty than nice to retailers.

Since the global economic crisis has put the nation on a course toward recession in October, hundreds of local jobs have been cut and yearly raises and bonuses have been suspended.

This decrease in income has translated into a slow down in retail sales.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Commerce Department announced that in the third quarter the gross domestic product (GDP) decreased by 0.5 percent from last year.

The department also announced that consumer spending was down 1 percent in October, which has caused some local retailers to fear a slow down for Christmas sales.

Steve Biagi, co-owner of The Biagi Company, said he is happy to have sales on par with last year.

"You'd like to be ahead of where you were last year, but in this economy, staying even is still pretty good," he said.

Biagi said while appliance sales have been slow, sales in electronics have been strong.

In year's past, retailers like Biagi could make up to 40 percent of their yearly profits from holiday retail sales.

And while sales might be down this season, local retailers are doing everything they can to entice shoppers continue playing Santa Clause.

Most stores in downtown Shelbyville are offering sales and discounts for the holiday season, with some prices being reduced by 75 percent.

Glenda Hillings, co-owner of the Ruby Rooster, said offering sales is helping to continue to attract customers into her store. Hillings said the number of sales she is making is staying relatively the same “but the we don’t use many big bags these days. Its almost all little bags.”

While some shoppers are cutting back, others are able to spend the same amount as last year.

Tina Fowler said, in light of the slow economy, she has been saving for Christmas for the last several months.

She said she is glad that she can spend the same amount on gifts as she did last year.

“My kids always wish that I would spend more,” she said.