Shoppers still scarce as days until Christmas count down

10:38 AM, Dec 19, 2009   |    comments
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Experts say the economy is forcing many people to cut back this year, even as we pull out of a recession.

According to the survey about 20 percent of Americans have not started their shopping as of late last week - only about 10 percent have completely finished buying everything they need.

Even though the economy is picking up, the unemployment rate in Colorado is still about 7 percent. That figure is pretty low compared to other states, but it is still leaving a lot of jobless people without money to buy gifts this year.

At the Cherry Creek Shopping Center in Denver, folks like Andrea Westhoff are cutting back because of their financial situation. She is one of the thousands of Coloradans without a job right now.

"Employment is lagging," University of Denver Finance Professor Mac Clouse said.

Clouse says the unemployment rate is really what is crippling holiday sales this year.

"Even though everybody says we're out of the recession, we're beginning to come back, it really doesn't come back for the person who is unemployed until you get that job," Clouse said.

Retailers are aware of the situation. They have scaled back on their inventories as much as shoppers have scaled back on their gift lists.

"The inventory isn't quite as big. So a lot of the buying was less on their part. They were preparing for a tougher Christmas," Clouse said.

It is one of the many reasons shoppers like Westhoff are not finding as many deals this season has they had hoped for.

"The last store we were in had some deals, but other than that, I haven't been finding as much as I hoped," she said.

The National Retail Federation says holiday sales will decline 1 percent compared to last year. It may seem like a small number, but it's causing big problems for retailers. The last time retailers had an average season was two years ago, before the unemployment rate shot up.

"It's a tough Christmas," Clouse said.

He says the best bet to find sales is to wait until a few days after the holidays when retailers will drop their prices significantly.

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