Professor Sheri Bridges says Holiday Shoppers are Investing in Technology

12.13.2010 Faculty News, General, News Release

Experts say consumers interested in electronics

Reposted from High Point Enterprise | By Pam Haynes

As the holiday shopping season kicks into full swing, Robert Hayes, store manager at Kmart in High Point, is noticing that sales are comparable to last year, while Adam Rice, manager at the Sears stores at Randolph Mall and Oak Hollow Mall, sees a slight uptick.

“We were hoping sales would be flat with last year,” Hayes said. “We always want an increase, but right now, it’s good to be flat. I think things will get better during the last two weeks before Christmas.”

What the store managers are seeing this year fall in line with predictions from some retail experts who say stores will probably perform about the same, if not better, than last year.

Economic indicators have provided some relief for shoppers, with the October unemployment rate dropping in High Point to 9.5 percent, the first time in nearly two years it fell below 10 percent. But the figure is still high, and national job creation continues to lag. Gas prices also jumped 8 cents within the last week in High Point.

Due to those economic indicators, Michael McCully, associate professor of economics at High Point University, said shoppers will probably spend slightly more than last year, but it won’t be a large increase.

“It seems in general that people are more confident this holiday season than in the past few years,” McCully said.

If they do spend money, it probably will be on electronics, said Sheri Bridges, associate professor of marketing at Wake Forest University.

“Consumers seem to be very interested in gifts that are going to be around for a while,” Bridges said. “That’s why technology – the games, TVs and iPods – is so popular this year, because they’re going to outlast the Christmas season. When we’re flushed with cash, then we’re more likely to buy something that gives us a temporary thrill.”

Gaming consoles and MP3 players have been the biggest sellers at Kmart this year, Hayes said. But Ginger Lett, a co-owner of Kits Co. on N. Main Street in High Point, said customers had been purchasing food items and food baskets more so than usual at the store. Shoppers also have veered away from the once popular seasonal gifts, such as Christmas ornaments, Lett said.

The number of online orders have grown this year, probably due to convenience and rising gas prices, Bridges added.

“Online sales don’t translate into store traffic, so sometimes that factor isn’t as noticeable” he said.