Discretionary spending skyrockets during the holiday season

BIG RAPIDS — Though local shoppers say they’ll try to spend the same amount as last Christmas season, retailers are optimistic that the deals will be too good to pass up and consumers will increase their holiday spending. With 15 days left in the holiday shopping season, three out of four Michigan retailers expect to increase sales this holiday season — many by more than 5 percent — according to the Michigan Retail Index, a joint project of Michigan Retailers Association (MRA) and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. “Michigan retailers are bullish on the holiday season,” said MRA President and CEO James P. Hallan. “Their forecasts are the most optimistic in more than a decade.” The monthly index survey found that 43 percent of the state’s retailers expect their holiday sales to rise by more than 5 percent over last year, while 32 percent expect smaller increases. Another 18 percent believe their sales will match last year’s. Don Knapp, of Reed City, expects to spend around $400 this year, which also is what he spent this year. “I like to get the best (deals),” Knapp said, noting he doesn’t like to shop online. He does most of his shopping at Walmart and Family Farm and Home in Reed City. Sue Sarver, of Reed City, also plans to spend the same amount — around $500 — as she did last year on her six children and seven grandchildren. She expects to do most of her shopping at super stores like Meijer. She said buying Christmas presents for her grandkids is one of her favorite parts about holiday shopping. “I think Christmas is for the kids,” she said. While Sarver said clothing items are at the top of her shopping list, Virginia Birnie, of Big Rapids, plans to help out her children and grandchildren with their everyday needs. “My kids want gift cards and necessity items,” she said, while shopping at Rite Aid in Big Rapids. “That’s what they have on their lists.” Though she typically doesn’t keep track of her budget for Christmas, she said she plans to spend at least $500 this year. “I usually just buy what’s on (my children’s) list, but I don’t get everything,” she said. Marie Knapp, of Reed City, plans to spend her Christmas budget on toys, clothes and gift cards for her family. Completing her holiday shopping mostly at Walmart, Knapp said she expects to spend near $500 this year on her seven kids and their spouses, 11 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. She hopes to spend $10 to $15 on each of her children, and $20 to $25 on her grandchildren. “For the ones over 18, I buy gift cards, that way they can buy what they want,” she said. While some shoppers complete their shopping in-store, others say online shopping is the way to beat the holiday crowds. Mike Militell, of Canadian Lakes, said he and his sons already have found some holiday bargains on the Internet to give as early Christmas presents. Having lived in the area for three months after living in Bay City, Militell said online shopping is a way to shop a variety of stores that aren’t in the Big Rapids area. “My son already bought me a 50-inch TV. He got a great deal on it online,” he said. Having recently moved into a new house and with his children both in their 20s, Militell said he expects to spend less money this year. “I think we spent more when the kids were younger because they had to have a lot to open,” Militell said. “Now, my one son is in college (at Ferris State University) and he wants a new backpack.”
Pioneer Staff Writer Sarah Neubecker and MCT News Services contributed to this story.