Shoppers likely to spend lightly this year

If economy-wary Bay Area residents went on a shopping diet last holiday season, this year it seems the goal is to keep that weight off.

“[The economy] is still bad,” said Warren Hong, 79, of the Richmond district, who was eating lunch in Union Square the day after Thanksgiving and watching shoppers stream in and out of the nearby Macy’s.

Hong said he would rather his wife and daughter not buy him anything this year.

“I don’t need anything,” Hong said.

Downtown San Francisco was brimming with foot traffic on Black Friday, the official start of the holiday shopping season. However, The City’s sidewalks and retail centers were not as clogged as in years past, a sign that the economy may still be lingering on people’s minds.

Seas of shoppers toting bags stocked with gifts streamed in and out of large retail centers such as the Westfield San Francisco Centre and Macy’s in Union Square. Many wanted to get their holiday shopping done early, while the shelves are still filled with discounted items.

While the economy has improved since last year, retailers are wary that consumers strapped by tight credit limits and unemployment will continue to spend less on gifts.

The National Retail Federation on Friday estimated total holiday sales nationwide would decrease 1 percent this year to $437.6 billion. Nevertheless, lower-than-ever Black Friday prices were expected to draw a lot of foot traffic to stores, the association said.

“Retailers in all sectors have reported strong crowds, with high definition televisions, laptops, winter coats and Zhu-Zhu pets among the most popular items,” it said.

Officials at the Westfield San Francisco Centre said Friday they were “very optimistic” about this season given the ample Black Friday crowds. Lines at stores were long and retailers were encouraged by a healthy amount of foot traffic, said Marketing Director Missy Heanue.

“There are a lot of people shopping, and there are a lot of shopping bags,” Heanue said. If [Friday] is any indication, we are looking forward to a good [holiday season].”

Of course, buying up a storm has become almost taboo for residents in the recession’s wake. Some shoppers rolled their eyes when asked if the economy would limit their purchases, as if to say the subject has gone out of style.

Others say they have learned the valuable lesson that, regardless of economic forecasts, one should only buy what one can afford.

“I don’t worry about [the economy],” said Michelle Forrest, 32, a South of Market resident, adding that “money comes and goes.”

maldax@sfexaminer.com

 

Holiday spending

The dour economy has some consumers watching what they spend this year.

$507.90: Average amount consumers 18 and older plan to spend on holiday gifts for family, friends, co-workers and others.

70.1: Percentage of consumers 18 and older who will shop for gifts at a discount store this holiday season

38: Percentage of consumers 18 and older who will shop for gifts in November

17.9: Percent of consumers 18 and older who will shop for gifts in first two weeks of December

4.8: Percentage of consumers 18 and older who will shop for gifts in last two weeks of December

11: Percentage of consumers 18 and older who will shop for more than half of their gifts online

65.3: Percent of consumers 18 and older who said the economy will affect spending plans for the holidays

Source: BIGresearch

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