Are holiday shoppers ready to spend? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Are holiday shoppers ready to spend?

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It may be September, but Francisca Roel is already 20 percent done with her Christmas shopping.

"I shop all yearlong. When I see the right thing for the right person, I just put it away," said Roel of Montreal.

She says she'll be opening up her wallet this year just as much as any other year.

St. Michael's College business professor Robert Letovsky says Roel is unusual because economists predict most people will be spending less. Letovsky says there are a number of factors making this holiday season a perfect storm, starting with a 14 percent unemployment rate, that includes many people who have given up looking for work.

"Any person who someone knows who's given up looking for work, that's a living, breathing warning to be careful with spending this Christmas," Letovsky said.

Letovsky also points to largely stagnant wages and a payroll tax change that hit worker's paychecks by 2 percent this year. It all adds up to less disposable income.

Reporter Gina Bullard: What's your plan?

Hannah Harrington/Burlington: I'm going to try to make a lot of gifts, spend some money on materials.

Letovsky says beyond the concrete there are a lot of questions that will cause people not to spend, like health care reform and changes to college loan programs. He says consumer confidence is shaky and people don't want to take on more debt given budget debates in Washington over the deficit and spending.

"People realize to get the problems under control you have two ways to get that done: cutting services or increasing taxes. People look ahead and they're saying this could impact me," Letovsky said.

Maureen Short disagrees. She says sales are up at her business, Wear it Well Jewelry in Burlington. And she expects the trend to continue into the holiday season.

"People are over all their worries about the recession and how it was going to unfold," Short said. "It's been five years now, so I find people are more willing to part with their money."

Whether you are planning to spend or save this holiday season, you'll have to decide soon. Last year, shoppers had 31 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This year, they only have 25.

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