Shoppers try to hit delicate balance

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Hollis Martin shows Tiffany Swanson Bell Jewelers selection of Hot Diamonds, part of the more stylish, affordable jewelry the store is offering this season. TMP/ M. Willard
Christmas shoppers are trying to strike a “delicate balance between saving and splurging,” one local retailer said.

“We’ve been selling more of the pre-owned than the new games,” explained Megan Clayton, owner of Play N Trade, a video game store on Thompson Lane, noting it was the same last Christmas. “Everybody tries to save money at Christmas time.”

Consumer attempts to save during the holiday shopping season may reflect a growing trend in the mid-state: a drop in consumer confidence.

“Depressed consumer confidence does not bode well for retailers as we enter into the Christmas and holiday shopping season,” said Timothy Graeff, director of MTSU’s Office of Consumer Research of the Middle Tennessee Consumer Confidence Index.

OCR found the overall confidence index fell from 142 to 83 between September and December. The drop is likely linked to consumers concerns about the current economy and its future.

“Unfortunately, negative views of the current economy, fears about the current job market and future contractions in the job market, and concerns about personal finances suggest that many local consumers are still keeping a tight grip on their wallets,” Graeff said.

The survey suggests 46 percent of shoppers plan to spend less than they did last year and 40 percent will spend about the same amount. Only 8 percent of respondents plan to spend more than they did last year.

“Many consumers seem to be taking a cautious approach to spending and are opting to reduce their spending in the event of even more economic tough times ahead,” Graeff said.

More bang for the buck

Local retailers like Clayton have seen this change from previous Christmas seasons.

“More are operating on a budget and being more considerate about their budget …” said Kim Meyers, owner of toy store Hobbytown USA. She said her customers search for value in their purchases in both price and playtime. “Their interest is in (products that are) going to last for some time.”

Clayton is seeing similar patterns with shoppers buying video game systems that have seen a price drop for the holiday shopping season.

“I definitely don’t think the Play Station 3 would be flying off the shelves it if were still $399,” she said, adding Sony dropped the price by $100 and Nintendo dropped the price of Wii by $50 to keep sales up.

And some manufacturers cut production because of an expected slower shopping season.

“Manufacturers were conservative in their inventory so unfortunately we are out of some things,” Meyers said.

Even with a lack of some big sellers, Meyers said shoppers are coming in and spending money.

The consumer confidence report said shoppers will keep a closer watch on how much they spend this year with 58 percent saying they will spend less than $500. Only 16 percent of those surveyed said they would spend more than $1,000 this Christmas season.

Because of tighter budgets, Bell Jewelers is selling more stylish, affordable jewelry this season, owner Lisa Halliburton said.

She said the store purposefully stocked up on more affordable options this season, like fresh water pearl bracelets and Hot Diamonds, which are sterling silver pieces with small diamond accents.

Customers are looking for a good deal but are likely to buy more expensive pieces, like engagement rings, for Christmas presents, she said.

“If people decide that jewelry is what they want to give they’ll buy it …” she said. “It’s the special time to give the special gift.”

Michelle Willard may be reached 869-0816 or at
Read more from:
Business, Christmas, Consumer Confience, Economy
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