Fears about imminent tax hikes and cuts in government spending are taking a toll on US shoppers and could deprive retailers of a strong finish to the 2012 holiday shopping season.
The acrimonious debate in Washington over how to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” has cast a pall over shopper sentiment as consumers head to malls on the last Saturday before Christmas — typically one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
“I don’t think we’re going to get a great pickup in the last few days here,” said Ron Friedman, retail practice leader at consulting firm Marcum LLP, explaining how the uncertainty related to the “cliff” was weighing on American minds.
About 17% of the 1,514 Americans who participated in a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted December 17-20 said the impending “fiscal cliff” was making them spend less this season.
“We just try to stay on a budget. We’re not going crazy,” said Tom Chowinski, a market researcher at Nielsen.
Chowinski did not completely understand the details of the looming fiscal cliff, but said seeing the debate’s impact on the stock market gave him pause.
Some shoppers, like Carmen De Jesus, 45, a home nurse living in New York, were more cautious.
De Jesus said she is spending less than last year, buying gifts only for her closest kin, and nothing for herself. “I don’t need it,” De Jesus said at a TJ Maxx store on Saturday morning. "The economy is not good.”