Christmas shoppers this year will be more frugal and will charge fewer purchases to credit cards, an economics professor said.
"In the recession, with people losing jobs, more are cautious. They're uncertain about what the future holds," University of Maine economics professor Jim McConnon said. "They're taking a wait-and-see attitude. That's going to affect sales this year."
Nationally, holiday shoppers will spend slightly less than last year, when spending was down 4 percent. Shoppers will be looking for the lowest prices and using coupons.
"Credit card use will be down, continuing the trend of declining credit cards," he said.
In Maine, McConnon said, "There are still many people out of work. There's been a change in people in general. They are more frugal. The kind of products they'll buy this Christmas will be reflective of that."
Mainers will buy lower ticket items, clothing and necessities. They'll be less likely to buy expensive products, such as televisions and other electronics, unless the sales are really good, he said.
Even though shoppers are more frugal, "people are still excited about holiday shopping," McConnon said. "I expect to still see lots of people out the day after Thanksgiving doing their shopping."
Stores are prepared to welcome them. "They've done their homework." Retailers have adjusted to consumers buying less and will have less inventory. They're managing their inventory more effectively than last year, so flat sales may be less of a problem, McConnon said. "Their overhead costs are down. Retailers are a pretty savvy bunch."
Locally, several stores are opening earlier than ever and appear to be collectively staggering the opening times to catch as many shoppers as they can. Some are beginning their early-bird specials at 4 a.m., some at 5 a.m., some at 6 and a few at 7 a.m.
A record number of stores have bought advertising supplements in today's Sun Journal: 34 inserts that weigh 2.8 pounds. "It's our biggest product ever," said Jim Costello Jr., vice president of operations. Last year, Black Friday inserts numbered 28 and weighed 2.6 pounds. "And that was a record," he said.
Delivering such a heavy newspaper meant earlier deadlines Wednesday night, more staff and extra delivery trucks, he said.
Costello said he hopes it's a good sign for the economy. "We hope it will work for the advertisers and their cash registers ring."