Holiday shopping concerns during economic hardship

BOSTON − Temperatures are dropping, wreaths are being hung, Santa’s elves are hard at work and holiday “sale” signs plaster store windows everywhere. Eager shoppers are normally out in full force by this time of year, pacing themselves and their wallets as they shop for the latest gadgets and search for the perfect gift. But how many people have actually begun their holiday shopping? Are sales drawing customers in the way they have in past years?Bargain Shopping Shopping trends seem to be different this year – sales have been running consistently for months, making the holiday discounts insignificant and ineffective. Shoppers aren’t buying the greatest, expensive “perfect” gifts; they’re settling for bargains. Wish lists are being cut in half since many gift-givers don’t even have the credit backing to charge their purchases like they have in the past.

“Consumers are aggressively cutting back,” said Scott Hoyt, director of consumer economics at Moody ‘s Economy.com, “They’re not even taking the savings from lower gas prices and spending it in stores.” Retail sales fell 2.8 percent last month, 1.6 percent more than was projected. Stores such as Gap (16% drop in sales), Macy*s (6.3% drop) and even Target (4.8% drop) are being hit the worst according to CNNMoney.com.

You and your family can still have a wonderful holiday:

Will Santa be relaxing by his fireplace this Christmas Eve instead of delivering a sleigh full of toys? Not exactly; consumers are being strategic about their shopping instead. “I’m shopping on Web sites like Overstock.com and picking up thoughtful gifts that don’t cost an arm and a leg,” said Robin Dupre, a single mom from Hooksett, N.H. “The spirit of the holidays won’t be lost in our family.”

“I haven’t even begun my shopping yet,” said 65-year-old Mary Bulger, a grandmother of 10 from Cambridge, Mass. “I’m trying to save until the discounts are as low as they will go.” Other people are taking a more creative approach. “I’ll be baking gingerbread cookies and decorating them for each of my friends to save money,” said Elizabeth Furest, a student at Emerson College in Boston.

Wal-mart, the leading discount giant, is expecting a surprising number of holiday shoppers this year. After a 2.4 percent jump in same-store-sales last month, executives decided to introduce a holiday gift section for the first time ever.

It doesn’t look like people are skipping Christmas this year, but shopping lists sure are different. Click here for cheap gift ideas. Students looking for fun gift-giving ideas for their friends should visit this Web site.

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