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Adam Hall, left, shows his daughter Emily, front, and Abbey a potential Christmas gift at Target on Monday.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Adam Hall, left, shows his daughter Emily, front, and Abbey a potential Christmas gift at Target on Monday.

Shopping close to home
Gas prices, new stores may mean green Christmas for Decatur

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com 340-2432

High gas prices and more shopping options could mean a successful Christmas shopping season for Decatur.

With The Crossings of Decatur shopping center open and gas costing more than $3 a gallon, about a dozen shoppers interviewed Monday said they're more likely to stay home for holiday shopping. That doesn't mean they won't visit Huntsville, Birmingham or Nashville for a shopping excursion or an item they're unable to find.

"Some of the stores in Huntsville are bigger, so they have more selections," said David Evans of Decatur. "But having The Crossings helps a bunch."

But don't expect The Crossings and its stores to dominate Decatur's Christmas season. Samantha Hannah and Machelle Knighten of Decatur said they went to Wal-Mart hoping that the lines would be shorter because of the excitement over Target. They were disappointed.

"It was just as crowded," Hannah said.

Colonial Mall was busy, too, as shoppers took advantage of the long Veterans Day holiday.

Some shoppers are turning to the Internet as a way to avoid the holiday crowds and stay off the roads. Jason Fields of Tuscumbia, in Decatur on business Monday, said he has been shopping online for the past four or five years.

The National Retail Association estimated that 30.2 percent of American consumers would shop online, compared to 28.9 percent in 2006.

"You avoid the crowds, and you don't have to pay sales tax," Fields said.

Christmas remains a blimp on the minds of the shoppers interviewed, although they said their children are adding to Santa lists daily. While the Retail Association expects close to 40 percent to begin shopping before Thanksgiving, shoppers interviewed Monday said Black Friday — the Friday after Thanksgiving — is their official start of holiday shopping or they wait until the last minute.

"We call it combat shopping," Hannah said of shopping the day after Thanksgiving when many retailers open before sunrise and offer specials.

Debbie Hanners of Hartselle said getting out early on Black Friday is a tradition she shares with her daughter, Deanna.

Those interviewed said their children's wants would decide how much they spend. Electronics retailers should have an especially happy Christmas because video game systems, computers and iPods are in high demand.

"I've got two boys and they both want big-ticket items," said Latitia Barton, who works in Decatur and lives in Madison. "One wants an X-Box 360, and the other wants a PlayStation 3."

Hannah has four boys between the ages of 9 and 14. She said their wish lists include a Nintendo Wii, a laptop computer and a PlayStation 3.

"Even my 9-year-old wants electronics," Hannah said. "You would think he might still want a toy car or truck, but kids are different now."

The retail federation reported that its first holiday survey shows consumers plan to spend about 4 percent more this season, but will restrain their spending because they are aware of the softness of the economy. Locally, gas prices are the shoppers' main concern.

"We'll probably spend a little less than last year because of gas prices and things are a little tighter (economically) than usual," Evans said.

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