Press-Republican

December 13, 2012

Christmas spending a mixed bag so far

'With this economic crisis … people are definitely corner cutting'

MATTHEW HAMILTON
Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — Adam Love doesn’t have plans for any last-minute shopping.

The Massena man was camped out on a bench at Champlain Centre as shoppers with gift-filled bags of all sizes strolled from store to store. He sat with a few bags of his own but said his Christmas shopping had wrapped up, giving the credit for the quick work to his wife.

“My wife is phenomenal with that,” he said.

As the shopping season entered its third week, Love wasn’t alone in having his shopping complete.

Bryan Trombley of Ellenburg Depot said he didn’t need to spend much time out and about to complete his gift buying. He said he did most of his shopping online this year because prices were comparable or cheaper there, and, for the same price as some stores, he could have his purchases delivered to his door.

CONSUMERS CONFIDENT

Regardless of where consumers are buying their gifts, they’re confident about spending. The November Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index was at a four-year high of 73.7, up 0.6 points from October.

The last time it surpassed that height was February 2008, when it hit 76.4, according to the Conference Board’s website.

Both Love and Trombley felt those findings are accurate.

That doesn’t mean consumers haven’t put away extra money, though. Robert Leabo of Plattsburgh said the Consumer Confidence Index may not take into account the average person on a fixed budget.

“With this economic crisis we’re in, people are definitely corner cutting,” he said. “The average, everyday person saves by corner cutting. They have to take money from somewhere.”

CANADIAN ADVANTAGE

For Canadian shoppers, that “corner cutting” may include taking advantage of cheaper prices for some goods in the United States.

Stephan Noel and Erin Duheme of Montreal were finishing their shopping in Plattsburgh because the prices here are better than in Montreal, Noel said.

He said the equivalency of the loonie to the U.S. dollar (the dollar was worth just a penny more that day) also was a factor in choosing to shop south of the border.

BUDGETS INCREASE

While Noel said he and Duheme have a lower budget than last year, others were able to raise their Christmas spending.

Stan and Bonnie Kusalonis of Peru said their spending went up from last year because the gifts on their list are more expensive.

“The kids got bigger; it’s more expensive what they want,” Bonnie said.

MIXED RESULTS

Even with larger budgets for some, retail stores have seen mixed results when it comes to revenue.

Champlain Centre General Manager David Napolitan said retailers reported a strong Black Friday the day after Thanksgiving.

But FYE Manager Michael Pearsall said that while the number of shoppers has been comparable to 2011, people may be spending less. The numbers aren’t what they used to be. 

Pearsall said lines at the entertainment store in the mall used to snake back toward the aisles. On this recent afternoon, the line barely cracked the beginning of the roped path to the registers.

Shoppers still are not being quick to spend their money, Pearsall said, and he thinks a lack of snow makes a difference, too.

“It gets people in that shopping mood,” he said. “(Without snow), some people don’t pay attention. They say, ‘Oh, I’ve got some time.’”

He said he expects a rush of shoppers in the coming weeks.