Holiday shoppers spending less

By Gabriel Monte: Freedom New Mexico

Jeremy and Michelle King of Clovis said the economic downturn has them spending less during the holidays.

Strolling with their children Saturday through the North Plains Mall, the Kings said their holiday shopping this year is focused on their children.

Michelle King, 32, a state employee, said they are shopping smarter: Looking for deals and paying with cash instead of putting their purchases on credit cards.

Jeremy King, 31, a BNSF Railway employee, said in the past he would apply for loans during the holidays to buy gifts.

“They’re harder to pay back,” Michelle King said.

Jeremy King said his family’s holiday shopping budget is 25 percent less than previous years.

Jolana Griego of Clovis said she plans to spend $500 less than previous holidays.

“I’m not spending like I used to,” she said, “everything being so expensive.”

David Stepanek of Del Rio, Texas, who was visiting family in Clovis, said the economic downturn has him searching for marked down items for himself as he sifted through the bargain bin of video games at Game Stop.

Like the Kings, Stepanek said he is holstering his credit cards and paying with cash.

“Because of the credit crunch, it seems like they’re more unforgiving about late charges,” he said.

Experts predict this year’s overall holiday shopping period will be the weakest in decades thanks to an overall contraction in spending,

Surprisingly, the holiday shopping season got off to strong start as sales on Black Friday rose 3 percent to $10.6 billion nationally, according to preliminary figures released Saturday by ShopperTrak RCT Corp., a Chicago-based research firm that tracks sales at more than 50,000 retail outlets.

Last year, shoppers spent about $10.3 billion on the day after Thanksgiving, dubbed Black Friday because it was historically the sales-packed day when retailers would become profitable for the year.

While it isn’t a predictor of overall holiday season sales, Black Friday is an important barometer of people’s willingness to spend during the holidays. Last year, it was the biggest sales generator of the season while the Thanksgiving shopping weekend of Friday through Sunday accounted for about 10 percent of overall holiday sales.