Local Retail Sellers Brace for Bad News

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A bad week on Wall Street ends on a sour note, with the Dow Jones dropping more than 330 points Friday. Retail stores are the latest victims coping with the crisis after October sales plunged by the largest amount on record.

Nationally, retail sales dropped last month by 2.8 percent; the largest drop since right after the 9/11 attacks. Though Wichita has been somewhat insulated, the recent layoffs are putting some kinks in our armor.

Uncertainty has crept back into the minds of shoppers and it's making them more careful about how much of their money they part with and how much they hold onto.

"I used to always just go in and get what met my fancy," says shopper Linda Evans. "Now I shop around a little bit and kind of set a budget and stick to it."

The retail sales drop shouldn't be a great surprise given the plunge in stock markets and the layoffs.

"It's a make or break time for retailers," says Anne Gallagher, of the WSU Center for Economic Development and Business Research. "Even though we've had an announcement of layoffs that historically are quite small."

The layoffs, so far, are in the hundreds not thousands as in some downturns.

"Community-wide and job market-wide that's not very huge," Gallagher says. "However, those announcements do affect other people."

In other words, it's shaking consumer confidence as one aircraft worker explains.

"Right now the way the aircraft industry is, which I work for, is talking about layoffs," says Bobby Seymore. "You can't really stick your neck out as far as going into debt for anything."

Retailers have had Merry Christmases when shoppers stuff new things under their trees. this year, it's high definition TV's, newer iPods, games, or GPS devices.

"Every year gets bigger and bigger," says Best Buy Service Manager Dave Wells. "Even with economies changing, I've got plenty of people in the store today. It's busy all the time."

The question will be if they spend as much this year as before.

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