It’s all a question of perception.
That’s how Kansas University associate business professor Dennis Rosen describes consumer behavior as the holiday shopping season continues.
“Consumers are going to be looking for sales at this point, and there’s going to be some real belt-tightening,” Rosen said.
Stores were busy the Friday after Thanksgiving, but that wasn’t enough to boost the economy out of its downturn. Nationally, November retail sales fell 2.7 percent compared with the same month a year ago, according to International Council of Shopping Centers, a trade group.
Shoppers also aren’t using their credit cards as much. A Consumer Reports survey shows more than half of shoppers intend to rely less on credit this Christmas.
People are concerned about losing their jobs, tight credit and home mortgages, Rosen said. “At the same time, they watch the news and hear all the weaknesses that exist in the economy and they wonder if it is going to affect them.”
If you can afford a new car, sale prices at auto dealerships are good. But consumers will start spending when they feel economically secure, Rosen said.
“When they feel insecure, they start pulling back,” he said. “It’s like a tortoise pulling its head in and taking cover.”