Shoppers Pinching Holiday Pennies

Smaller, Fewer Gifts A Sign Of Thetimes

December 23, 1991|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

Pam Landon drove to the Harundale Mall from Annapolis on one of the busiest Christmas shopping days because other stores just didn't carry what she was looking for.

Landon wasn't seeking a last-minute, hard-to-find gift for her husband or children. No, what Landon wanted Saturday was a 99-cent liner for a shower curtain.

She found it, along with some last-minute gifts that closed out her holiday shopping. The family, she explained, had outlined a holiday budget for Christmas and set aside a specific amount of money.

"We're spending about the same" as last year, she said.

That means a bubble lawn mower and lots of Tonka trucks for her 2-year-old nephew, Lewis Cole. And it means Landon was shopping smart.

She wasn't alone.

At Harundale and Annapolis malls, shoppers said they were being more selective in what they buy. Some said they were cutting back; others -- with secure jobs -- said they were taking advantage of sales designed to lure the spendthrifts.

Worried about bills and high interest rates, many people were not inclined to use their credit cards, preferring instead to use the cash in their wallets. When thatran out, the shopping stopped.

"I don't think I'm spending as much," said Cheri Chase, a New Carrollton resident out shopping in the Annapolis Mall with her two children, 2-year-old Jordan and 4-year-oldAdrian. "The people I know are saying, 'Let's spend time together instead of on gifts.' "

For many people, the gifts they are buying are smaller. Just ask Mary Lou Clark, who was wrapping presents at Harundale. Although she attributed many of the small gifts to children buying presents for their parents, she did say people are being very selective this year.

"I think that everyone has to be smart this year, because it is bad out there right now," Clark said. "But they seem to be happy."

Jim Queen, of Severn, said the recession "is hard on everybody," but he is trying to maintain his Christmas spendingpower.

He said he watched Gov. William Donald Schaefer's speech last week, where he asked people to spend lots of money on Christmas to help boost the economy.

"I agree up to a point," he said. "But he's got his cuts to make and we've got our cuts to make, too."

And thecutting back is hurting business.

Larry Heinze, who owns the MugsN' Hugs stall at Harundale, said retailers he's talked to in the mall told him business was down 15 percent to 30 percent from last year.

"It's slower than I anticipated," he said, adding that from what he has seen, people are using credit cards more. "That indicates their cash is running low."

Kevin Proctor, who was shopping in Annapolis with his 2-month-old son, Kevin, and his 3-year-old daughter, Jessica, said the new addition to his family has forced him to cut back on holiday spending.

"I am definitely spending less," the Largo resident said. He too watched the governor's speech. Of Schaefer's plea to boost sales, he said, "That's easy for him to say."

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