Economy foreshadows bleak holiday season


Retailers are already suffering from a weak fall shopping season and while that's not a predictor of holiday sales, it is an indicator of how consumers are willing to spend.

With high gas prices, high food prices, and high unemployment, it's no wonder many stores aren't jam-packed these days.

"I was just in the stores today, not as many as people are shopping," said Mary Ann Bianco.

The situation isn't expected to be much better for the holidays either. The National Retail Federation, a Washington-based trade association predicts that holiday sales will rise a modest 2.2 percent from a year ago, to $470 billion. That's the slowest pace in six years. Many shoppers we talked to say there's no doubt they'll be scaling back on their holiday shopping.

"Certainly lesser, stick to the necessities," said Aman Walia, a shopper.

"I'm single, so I buy myself lots and lots, but this year maybe just less," said Rose Wolf, a shopper.

Stores have already scaled back on inventories. In fact, imports at the port of Oakland are down 11 percent from a year ago -- due in large part to the weak dollar and the mortgage crises.

"If the cost of money goes up even a slight bit, it's going to reduce inventories, therefore fewer items to buy, therefore, less sales, less revenue," said Eugene Muscat, a business professor at the University of San Francisco.

However, retailers will be doing everything they can to get shoppers to spend -- likely offering deep discounts and pre-Thanksgiving sales. Some shoppers, though, say for them, this holiday season will be no different.

"I feel pretty stable and comfortable with my job and we'll see how everything plays out, but right now I'm certainly not too worried about," said Victoria Yeager Sawyer, a shopper.

"I'm not worried about the economy, it has its ups and downs and it will come back up again," said Afsaneh Akhtari, a shopper.

Stores like Target are preparing for what's to come. The chain is focusing on gifts under $25 in its holiday marketing.

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