Local retailers feeling economic pinch

A Grinch-y economy has taken some of the sparkle out of the Christmas shopping season so far.

A Grinch-y economy has taken some of the sparkle out of the Christmas shopping season so far.

Local retailers said there appears to be a little less spending this year, although some figure it’s about the same as last year.

A woman who works at a Bower Place Shopping Centre clothing shop said overall traffic appears to be down a bit.

“I don’t think there’s as much disposable income,” she said, adding more online shopping is also a factor.

“It’s definitely down. But (Friday) night, it was insane,” she said, adding the mall was packed.

She predicted the parking lot would be full again by the afternoon.

“It’s still pretty good.”

A salesperson at a jewelry store said the economy has had a noticeable impact.

“It’s a different year,” she said. “It’s definitely slower.”

But while sales might be down a little, it has not been a dramatic drop. she added.

A saleswoman at another clothing store said it has been steady so far this season.

“It hasn’t been super, super busy,” she said, adding the mall has been crowded though.

Another women’s clothing retailer said sales so far were on par with last year.

“Everything’s been good.”

Dan Hachey, general manager of Parkland Mall, said retail is “surprisingly boisterous” considering the bad news on the economic front.

“It’s probably a little under last year,” he said, adding retailers are taking it in stride.

Spirits appear to be remaining high among most shoppers.

Given slumping oil prices many retailers were concerned about the upcoming season, which is always hugely important to merchants.

“When the economy is the way it is you always wonder how our residents are doing, but, fortunately, it doesn’t seem to be showing in people’s purchases for Christmas,” Hachey said.

Solid sales numbers from retailers aren’t usually available until February, when retail analysts will be able to take stock of the season.

Reg Warkentin, policy co-ordinator Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce, said they are hearing that the season should be reasonably good.

While there has been no shortage of bad economic news over the last few months, Red Deer’s unemployment still sits at only 5.5 per cent, which would be an enviable number in many jurisdictions.

The economy is down compared to some of the banner years of not so long ago, said Warkentin, but overall it could be much worse.

For many businesses, the first quarter of next year — traditionally a slow time — may provide a clearer picture of where the retail economy stands.

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