December 19, 2010 in City

Sharp shoppers balancing economy, spirit of season

Personal touch still can trump bargains
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Dan Pelle photo

Megan Tallman, 6, shows off paint-covered hands to her mother, Dawn Tallman, after she imprinted her palms on a mug at Polka Dot Pottery on Saturday.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Snowfall and slick roads didn’t slow down many Spokane shoppers who flocked to stores Saturday – the last Saturday before Christmas – to do holiday shopping.

Some said they are buying practical gifts and some said they are buying frivolous gifts. Some said they are spending more than last year, some said less. But most said they are spending the same.

The National Retail Federation projected a slight rise in holiday spending this year. The average U.S. consumer will spend $689 on holiday-related items, up from about $682 in 2009.

While the increase is slight, it may indicate the economy is making a slow turnaround. For many shoppers, though, it’s just too soon to tell.

Even though she’s only 10, the importance of making her dollar stretch is not lost on Cassidy Scott. Scott shopped at Santa Express, a holiday store where kids pick out presents on their own and learn the joys of gift giving. Proceeds benefit the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery, which helps struggling parents and children.

“It’s a good place to shop and everything is really cheap,” Scott said. “You can get a lot of stuff with a little money.”

Parents give their kids a set amount of money and help them create a list of whom to shop for. The parents wait outside the store while volunteer “elves” take the kids behind a curtain to do their shopping. Scott said she bought six presents for $4.50.

“I like going shopping, but I already have a lot of stuff,” she said. “I like getting presents to make people happy.”

Some shoppers are still at the mercy of a downtrodden economy. Dawn Pitts, who also took her son shopping at Santa Express, said she is still pinching pennies. She’ll do a lot of her shopping after Christmas, when many gift items go on sale, she said.

“I actually haven’t done any shopping,” she said. “I’m spending less. My budget’s just tighter.

“Toys are just more expensive now,” she added. “It’s kind of hard to find anything that’s under $30 or $40. It adds up quick.”

Pitts said she brought her son, Brady, 8, to Santa Express to learn the value of a dollar while purchasing gifts for his family and friends.

“I think it’s great for them to do their shopping on a budget,” she said. “I told him I wish I could go in there and shop!”

Kelly Fisk said she is buying fewer practical and more discretionary gifts this year.

“I think it’s more thoughtful, kind of fun stuff,” she said. “Just stuff you don’t really need. Kind of sentimental, so they’ll really appreciate it.”

She said she isn’t too concerned with spending time hunting for the best bargains.

Many Spokane shoppers are sticking to that old Christmas mantra – it’s not how much you spend, it’s the thought that counts – and are making gifts this year instead of buying them.

The Tallman family also chose to make gifts this year. They spent their Saturday painting at Polka Dot Pottery at River Park Square downtown.

“We wanted to give a personal gift to the family,” Dawn Tallman said.

The added bonus, she said: “It’s nice family time, as well. It’s been a neat way to spend time together.”


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email