Thursday, November 29, 2007

'Tis the season

One man who never worried about what to buy for Christmas.

So, how's the Christmas shopping going? If you've been fighting the crowds at the mall, it's probably something you're not wanting to think about right now.

Word is that the less-affluent are scaling back their Christmas shopping, while upscale retailers are doing just fine:

Nationally, many luxury goods retailers appear to be doing just fine as wealthy consumers feel little ill effects from gasoline above $3 a gallon. Take jewelry retailer Tiffany & Co., for instance. Its same-store sales have climbed higher, while Saks stores saw 10.6 percent same-store sales growth in October as women stocked up on pricey shoes, jewelry and accessories.

Meanwhile, retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
[...]have responded to the softer economy by offering deeper discounts, and Wal-Mart's profits have increased as a result.

Stores such as J.C. Penney and Kohl's Corp. — sandwiched somewhere in the middle between the discount chains and luxury boutiques — have reported declining profits, though.

The article goes on to cite a recent consumer study:

A survey by consumer research firm BIGresearch in Worthington, Ohio, found households making less than $50,000 a year plan to cut holiday spending by 18 percent this year to $424 on average. Those making more than $50,000 a year said they plan to spend as much as last Christmas.

Another study I've seen finds that the average family plans to spend $859 on Christmas gifts this year, down 5% from 2006. This study notes that Christmas spending has declined in six of the past seven years. That may seem odd considering that the Bush Administration and its apologists claim that we are in one of the biggest economic expansions in history. Or perhaps American families are starting to realize that there's more to Christmas than presents under the tree.

Has the rising cost of gas and groceries cut into your Christmas budget, or are your family and friends worth a few months of post-holiday belt-tightening? One thing Mrs. S. and I have been thinking about is that we've put off buying a new car as long as we can, and that it would be nice to have some extra cash to take to the car dealers in order to keep the payments down. The car situation may end up leading to us not being as generous this holiday season as we might like to be.