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For Present Seekers, Target, Tysons, Internet Present a Pleasant Present as Holidays Near

 Small Sample Shows Spending Down, As Shoppers Search for Winter Bargains

The holiday season has begun and with it comes the shopping frenzy that regularly accompanies the month of December. Where are locals shopping this season? By visiting some familiar Falls Church hangouts, Stacy’s Coffee Parlor, Starbucks and Panera, the News-Press got the low down on the shopping showdown.

The informal polling revealed that most residents shop in three ways — by visiting the nearby Tysons Galleria mall, hitting up budget-friendly store Target or simply staying at home and going online.

In regards to how much local consumers plan on spending on gifts this holiday season, the local economy seems to be mirroring the national picture. For the most part, shoppers are looking to save some pennies and pinch pocketbooks in the wake of a gloomy economic outlook.

According to the National Retail Federation (NFR), Holiday Retail Sales in billions for 2006 were $456.20. The NRF estimates that there will be a 4 % decrease in Holiday Retail Industry Sales in 2007. Incidentally, 1999 was the year of the highest holiday sales increase in the past decade.

While economists forecast a slump in holiday spending, at least one Falls Church shopper sees slumping sales as an excellent opportunity to pounce on deals.

“I will be buying more this year because there are better discounts since stores need to sell things,” said one gentleman interviewed at Stacy’s Coffee Parlor.

Sales have been slow locally, according to a pair of Falls Church retailers.

“I think people just aren’t spending as much as they did last year,” says Linda Mock, a Manager at Syms, a large department store in Falls Church. Mock says that the store's sales figures have been down thus far. Meanwhile, things have been picking up at the Broadway's Impulsive, a store specializing in art and other hand-crafted items.

“It was slower this year up until Thanksgiving and then it picked up,” says Leslie Hutchison, the store's owner. In fact, in order to entice shoppers Impulsive is running a special promotion “Free Gifts from Impulsive.” Everyone that stops by the store is eligible to enter, one entry per person, per day. Through December 23rd, the store will draw a name each morning. The winner will receive a free gift from Impulsive.

With money tight, stores and internet sites that can offer steep discounts have been drawing customers this year.

A newly engaged couple at Panera, Mitchell Vakerics and Jasmine Webb, visit two Falls Church stores for their holiday shopping. “We will shop at Target and Home Depot,” Mitchell says. A patron at Stacy's Coffee Parlor suggests shoppers try some nearby discount stores.

“That little section in Target has a lot of dollar stuff. National Wholesale Liquidators and Michaels are good for stocking stuffers,” the Stacy's patron says. “A lot of people shop online, but I like the gratification of just buying something and having it right away.”

And what exactly are these shoppers searching for? For the most part it appears the young ones will have all the fun.

“The gifts for the children will be for fun and for us, the parents, we will get more necessities,” says a woman with two small children in tow.

The young couple at Panera says, “We just got engaged so we are trying to save and spend less. I asked my mom to cover our airfare so we can come home for Christmas and for gifts, I asked for necessities, like work shirts.” 

For a recent college graduate, her spending will take an up turn.

“I have a job this year,” she says. “I never buy stuff for myself that I want. This year I want a bicycle and I asked for that for Christmas. That is more of a fun gift.”

As Falls Church continues to grow, the News-Press also inquired if there were any stores or services they would like to see move into the city.

Resident Sharon Surette says, “It is nice to see things coming in to Falls Church, but I don't really think I need more shopping here because Tysons is so close by.”

Meanwhile, the busy mom would like the convenience of a superstore: “It would be nice to see a Costco closer to Falls Church.”

An older man simply suggests what he sees as a much needed service: “The one thing we need in Falls Church is parking.”