Economy, shutdown worries could slow holiday spending

TACOMA, Wash. -- Worries over the economy and the recent government shutdown could put the brakes on spending this holiday season, and that's not welcome news for local retailers already struggling to get by.

It's a financial fallout shops and stores certainly didn't expect, but a new survey claims the slow economy and ongoing political gridlock could take its toll on the holidays.

It's not even Halloween yet, but the Christmas Expo in Tacoma is already in full swing.

Vendor Scott Lofgran is already bracing for low sales and fewer customers this year. Just by looking at the shoppers, vendor Sue Irving agrees that it could be rough season.

"A lot of them don't have any bags -- not everyone's opening their wallets -- they're kind of looking for the best bargain," Irving said.

According to a new survey by the National Retail Federation, holiday sales will take a giant dip this winter, with the average customer planning to spend two percent less than they did last year on gifts and decorations.

While more than half of all customers blame the economy for spending less, a third blame the recent government shutdown.

Sensing trouble, several large retailers have launched their holiday ads even earlier this year. Kmart started airing a Christmas commercial in September, and for the first time in 155 years, Macy's will join the growing list of retailers opening their doors early on Thanksgiving.

A lot of shoppers say they're cutting back this year because they don't have the extra spending cash that they had in years past.

"It will be very limited on what I purchase," one shopper said.

Others say they fear the threat of another government shutdown in January and what it could mean for them. That trepidation could spell disaster for small-business owners like Lofgran.

"It makes the rest of the year more difficult," he said. "You get by until next year."

A lot of stores are starting to put up Christmas decorations to capitalize on early shoppers. According to the new survey, nearly half of all shoppers say they'll start Christmas shopping before Halloween.