Vindicator Logo

The joy of shopping is back

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Associated Press


Shoppers came back in force for the holidays, right to the very end. After two years of recession, Christmas 2010 will go down as the moment when Americans rediscovered how much they like to shop.

People spent more than expected on family and friends and splurged on themselves, too, an ingredient missing for two years. Clothing such as fur vests and beaded sweaters replaced practical items such as pots and pans. Even the family dog is getting a little something extra.

“You saw joy back in the holiday season,” said Sherif Mityas, partner in the retail practice at A.T. Kearney.

A strong Christmas Eve rounded out a great season for retailers. The National Retail Federation predicts that holiday spending will reach $451.5 billion this year, up 3.3 percent over last year.

That would be the biggest increase since 2006, and the largest total since a record $452.8 billion in 2007. And a strong week after Christmas could make this shopping season the biggest of all time. Final figures won’t be available until next week.

The economy hasn’t drastically improved from last year. Unemployment is 9.9 percent, credit remains tight and the housing market is moribund. But recent economic reports suggest employers are laying off fewer workers, and businesses are ordering more computers and appliances. Shoppers are spending with more confidence.

“I was unemployed last year, so I’m feeling better,” said Hope Jackson, who was at Maryland’s Mall in Columbia on Friday morning. Jackson bought laptops and PlayStation 2 games for her three daughters earlier in the season but was at the mall on Christmas Eve to grab $50 shirts marked down to $12 at Aeropostale.

Much of the spending growth has been online, driven by more free- shipping offers and convenience. So far this year, $36.4 billion has been spent online, a 15.4 increase over last year, according to MasterCard Advisors’ SpendingPulse.

Taubman Centers and Mall of America have reported strong sales in fashion, which were a hard sell last year. Jewelry sales sparkled throughout the season.

Stores expect solid profits because they didn’t have to resort to desperate, fire-sale discounts to move merchandise, analysts say.

Some shopping habits learned from the recession linger. One big lesson taught by the recession: using cash, not credit. Shoppers also hunted for deals, a trend that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.

Bargains will abound Sunday, when after- Christmas sales begin.