Down economy prompts changes in buying habits

Published 6:00 am Monday, December 1, 2008

With the economy at a definite low point going into the holidayseason, many shoppers say they will be scaling down Christmasspending. However, their Christmas spirit remains undaunted by thedoldrums.

City officials have pointed out in recent months that Brookhavenhas been blessed so far that the impact of the economic slump hasnot been as bad as in other areas. Robyn Hastings, a Brookhavennative now working in Greenville, agreed that things are better inher hometown.

“The economy here is better than it is in the Delta. I do energyassistance and light bills have been really high, people are havinga hard time paying them,” said Hastings while back in town forThanksgiving. “A lot of plants have closed in Greenville, and theBrookhaven economy is a little bit better.”

But still, shoppers are having to scale back a little. For manyshoppers, it’s simply the threat of the recession that has causedtheir shopping strategy to change.

“So far we haven’t been affected by any of the economy stuff. Ialways say it’s because we’re too middle class,” said Brookhaven’sSarah Miller. “But the idea that it could get worse and it mightget to where it does affect us, that’s making me watch spendingthis year.”

Joe Freeman II said he’s not a regular day-after-Thanksgivingshopper, but that this year he’s hoping to save some much-neededmoney.

“Decisions, decisions, decisions,” he said. “I’m trying to saveevery penny I can. I’m not doing the best but I’m hanging in there.I think people are looking to save every dollar they can, likeme.”

Some people who have previously been on the short list for giftswill be put on the waiting list for this year. Monticello’s ShanaTurnage said she’s going to make sure she has gifts for immediatefamily this year before she worries about anyone else.

“Usually I kind of try to do a little for everyone, but thisyear I’m focusing on my son,” she said. “I’m not going to worryabout anyone else until my family’s taken care of.”

Meanwhile, other shoppers say times like these are when apreviously frugal approach tends to pay off.

“It hasn’t been that bad for us,” said Dianne Watts, ofMonterey, La. “We’ve never been too extravagant at Christmastime.”

Her daughter, Amy Smith of Brookhaven, said the savings in theirhousehold will be made in the areas of preparation and gift-giving,but not in the spending for their children.

“We’re just cutting back in general,” she said. “We cut back oneverything else, but we spend the same on the kids.”

Watts said that has always been the case for her and herhusband.

“That’s why we don’t really do a big Christmas,” she said. “It’sall for the kids and grandkids.”

Trucker Billy Jackson, who lives near Bogue Chitto, said whilehe’ll be buying some needed thing for himself this year, he won’tbe buying for anyone else.

But that doesn’t mean he won’t be thinking about his friendsduring the holidays. Jackson said Christmas cards will have tosuffice this year.

“We’re not exactly passing gifts around this year,” he said. “Ifigure when they get that note in their box, that’ll be all rightwith most of them. We’re all in the same bind.”

And Sears owner Sid Sasser said while his store is doing well inthe district this year, it looks like this Christmas will be a hardone for retailers as well as shoppers.

“It’s tough nationwide, though we’re optimistic about today,” hesaid. “We’re still keeping the registers open and that’s about allyou can do.”

Brookhaven’s Carmela Coleman said she’s cutting back on all thespending this year, but that to her Christmas is still a time forjoy and cheer.

“I’m spending less on everything,” she said. “But it hasn’taffected my Christmas spirit.”