It’s that time of the year again. Shoppers are lining up outside stores in the early morning hours, retailers have slashed prices on some popular items and Santa Claus can be found in many malls across America. The holiday shopping season is officially underway, but this year, both retailers and consumers are acting cautious.

Paul Wong
A sale sign hangs in front of Bivouac on State Street as snow reminds passerbys that the holiday season is here.

“Sales have been a little slower than last year, but we’re still doing pretty good,” said Matt Keel, an executive team leader at the Target store on Ann Arbor-Saline Road. “Business is picking up right now. We’re being pretty aggressive with our price cuts.”

Keel said he is optimistic about the holiday season. Target and other retailers have reason to be with many recent positive economic developments.

On an encouraging note, the economy is showing more strength than it has in recent months. Last week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average posted its eighth consecutive weekly gain and its biggest two-month increase in 15 years, due in part to the release of positive economic reports.

Online shopping is having a banner year. Sales , not including travel, are estimated to be 40 percent higher than they were a year ago, according to ComScore Networks, which tracks online retail purchase behavior. Overall, web-based sales are expected to increase 15 to 35 percent this year, according to analysts.

Consumer confidence is also showing recovery. The University’s Index of Consumer Sentiment rose for the month of November, increasing 3.6 to 84.2. Consumer confidence is viewed by many to be an indicator of future consumer spending.

Still, Richard Curtin, director of the University’s Surveys of Consumers, noted that consumer spending remains vulnerable.

“Although consumers viewed prospects for the national economy somewhat more favorably, they did not change their grim assessments of their own financial situations,” Curtin said in a statement.

Indeed, many Americans are planning to spend less this holiday season. According to a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll, shoppers plan to spend an average of $769 this year, down from the average of $820 last year. This is the fourth decline in four years. Overall, 24 percent of those polled said they would spend less than last year; 56 percent plan to spend the same amount, while 19 percent will spend more.

Many students say they have already started holiday shopping and will spend less money this year.

RC freshman Julia Malette said she was pleased with the many holiday sales and has purchased books as gifts for some friends and family.

“I’m excited about my sister’s present,” Malette said.

LSA freshman Erin Pettypiece is forgoing retail stores altogether to find holiday presents.

“I don’t have any money,” Pettypiece said. “I will be making presents for friends and family this year. I’m just taking my sister out to dinner because I know she won’t like whatever I get her.”

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