Shoppers found bigger sales, smaller crowds

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 24, 2012 at 1:34 pm •  Published: December 24, 2012
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NEW YORK (AP) — Shoppers who waited until the final days before Christmas were rewarded with big bargains and lighter crowds. But their last-minute deal hunting may hurt stores.

Although fresh data on the holiday shopping season won't be available until Christmas, analysts expect growth from last year to be modest. Several factors have dampened shoppers' spirits, including fears that the economy could fall off the "fiscal cliff," triggering tax increases and spending cuts early next year.

On Christmas Eve, Taubman Centers, which operates 28 malls across the country, reported a "very strong weekend." But many last-minute shoppers in cities including New York, Atlanta and Indianapolis were spending less than they did last year, and taking advantage of big discounts of up to 70 percent that hurt stores' profits.

Kris Betzold, 40, of Carmel, Ind., was out at the Fashion Mall at Keystone in Indianapolis on Monday looking for deals on toys, and said she's noticed the sales are "even better now than they were at Thanksgiving." She said the economy has prompted her and her husband to be more frugal this year.

"We under-budgeted ourselves by $400 for Christmas because we just wanted to put that money back in savings," she said.

Dianne Ashford, 40, was at the Lenox Square Mall in Atlanta on Monday, said she was spending $500 on gifts this year, down from the $1,000 she normally spends.

"Times are hard," said Ashford, who works for a film production company. The best deal she found this year was a guitar for her mother, half off at $79.

Other last-minute shoppers said they were holding off as much as possible for even bigger post-holiday sales.

Chris Ailes, a 37-year-old TV producer, also was at the Lenox Square on Monday to pick up last-minute gifts for his mom and grandmother. With the economy so shaky, he and his family are trying to cut back on spending. So he said he's looking forward to discounts after Christmas.

"That's when the sales are going on," he said.

At Macy's in New York, shopper Maureen Whyte had a similar game plan in mind. Whyte, a 33-year-old who works for an insurance company, was picking up last-minute stocking stuffers for her kids. For some toys, however, she was holding off for the post-Christmas sales and her kids understood why.