Soft economy has shoppers waiting out retailers

Peyton Manning scores big play in Durango

Peyton Manning appears to be having a better season than the nation’s retailers.

Manning is not only having a good year with the Denver Broncos, he is also having a pretty good Christmas season at the Durango Sports Zone by boosting the sale of football jerseys.

“Manning is our biggest sales item,” said salesman Andre Pierre-Louis. “We’ve sold out a lot of Manning and (linebacker) Von Miller.”

Last-minute shoppers were doing their drill on Christmas Eve at the sports-fan shop on Main Avenue, “We have had boyfriends shopping for girlfriends, girlfriends shopping for boyfriends. Mothers shopping for kids, fathers just standing there,” Pierre-Louis said.

Aaron Perlman, who owns the Sports Zone and Trinkets and Treasure gift shop, believes there has “been a larger amount of locals shopping downtown this year. I have seen an influx of locals. It’s been a very positive year.”

Passions other than sports were also sending shoppers out to stores on Monday.

Those looking for the erotica thriller, 50 Shades of Grey, might have been disappointed that Maria’s Bookshop had sold out of the first novel in the three-part series Saturday. Shoppers will have to wait until the end of the week or early next week if they want to give it as a belated gift, said co-owner Andrea Avantaggio.

Kent Grant, who lives on the Florida Mesa, went shopping for his wife out of fear she had a gift for him.

“I usually start feeling guilty (on Christmas Eve),” he said. “I never know if she is going to have something or not.”

Elizabeth Shephard, 32, made a game this year of spending the least amount possible while still giving meaningful gifts. She spent $100 on photo albums for family and friends.

Besides frugal shoppers, one shop owner thought recent snowfall might have thrown off sales, too.

“I can’t complain with all the business we got, but we’re behind last year,” said Robert Stapleton, owner of Southwest Sound, a music shop on Main Avenue. “I think the snow the weekend before last put a damper on things. The 23rd (of December) being on a Sunday also slowed down stuff a lot. The snow didn’t help today.”

“But I try to look at the positives, and not look at the (sales) totals every five minutes and think, ‘Oh, my God,’” Stapleton said.

Although fresh data about the nation’s holiday shopping patterns won’t be available until after Christmas, analysts expect growth from last year to be modest. Several factors have dampened shoppers’ spirits, including fears the economy will fall off the “fiscal cliff,” triggering tax increases and spending cuts early next year.

ShopperTrak, which counts foot traffic and offers its own proprietary sales numbers from 40,000 retail outlets across the country, last Wednesday cut its forecast for holiday spending down to 2.5 percent growth to $257.7 billion, from prior expectations of a 3.3 percent rise.

Online, sales rose just 8.4 percent to $48 billion from Oct. 28 through Saturday, according to a measure by MasterCard Advisors’ SpendingPulse. That is below the online sales growth of between 15 to 17 percent seen in the prior 18-month period, according to the data service, which tracks all spending across all forms of payment, including cash.

Marshal Cohen, chief research analyst at the market-research firm NPD Inc., said retailers will have to be more aggressive than usual with discounts in the days after Christmas to get shoppers to spend. That could mean some stores will slash prices by as much as 80 percent to make shoppers believe the sales are a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”

“Consumers are going to be rewarded for waiting until after the holidays,” he said.

Chris Ailes, a 37-year-old TV producer, planned to go light before Christmas, and hit stores hard after the holiday. He was at Lenox Square shopping center in Atlanta on Christmas Eve 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.

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 at the Fashion Mall at Keystone on Monday in Indianapolis 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.