WMU News

Retailers react to changes in consumer spending

Dec. 6, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- Lagging consumer confidence, increased marketing of Kwanzaa and Hanukah and buyers fixed on bargains are just few signs of the times that retailers are paying attention to during the 2002 holiday season. So says Dr. Barbara J. Frazier, a Western Michigan University instructor who specializes in retail entrepreneurship and the economic impact of retail businesses on rural and tourist areas.

"The National Retailers Association is predicting a 'moderate' holiday with about a 4 percent increase in spending, but I'm a bit more pessimistic," she says. "One-third of consumers expect to spend less than last year, so I can't see how that can translate into a 4 percent increase for retailers! And locally, while the closing of Steketee's in Kalamazoo is long overdue, it is an indication that things are tough in our own backyard."

Consumers this season are likely to be looking for home and leisure goods, "and maybe a few more apparel items this year, because we haven't been buying clothing lately," says Frazier, who also notes that the holiday market has been expanded by more emphasis on Hanukah and Kwanzaa goods. "Retailers also are recognizing that price will be very important and that consumers will be looking for bargains, shopping later and shopping at discount stores.

Media contact: Gail Towns, 269 387-8400, gail.towns@wmich.edu

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