Shopping For Optimism

Clear skies and sunshine are the perfect antidote to what's been ailing America's holiday shopping season after winter storms earlier this month put the brakes on consumers -- especially in the Northeast, reports CBS News Correspondent Randall Pinkston.

"The two snowstorms over the past two weekends kept us away from the stores," says shopper Mike Shine.

Now, on the single biggest shopping day before Christmas Saturday, consumers such as Barbara D'Addario are back and spending money.

"Today, [I spent] about $75, and I've been here 20 minutes," laughs D'Addario.

And there're signs of a Saddam effect, with some shoppers attributing their optimism to the tyrant's capture.

"[I've] great hopes that the economy is improving and we caught Saddam Hussein," says D'Addario. "We're very happy."

Because of consumers like her, the retail industry remains upbeat about topping last year's anemic 2 percent growth.

"The economy is so much stronger one year later," says National Retail Federation's Scott Krugman. "Consumers are in a much better place one year later. Now, we think 5.7 percent is well within reach."

But industry analysts, who are looking at the cold hard numbers, think otherwise.

"I think the holiday has been disappointing frankly," says retail analyst Bob Buchanan.

Critics say this may be another lackluster year in part of lackluster job growth.

"In America, you got like 10 percent of the people that are making good money and the other 90 percent, for the most part, are struggling," says Buchanan.

The management at New York's South Street Seaport Mall is optimistic.

"The store managers are saying business is better than last year and we're doing traffic surveys of our own to validate what they're saying," says South Street Seaport's Michael Piazzola.

A positive trend has been tourists taking advantage of airline deals and better exchange rates – coming to the states to shop.

"I think it's cheap and you get more variety, and the people are lovely," says British tourist Bernadette Robson.

While a lot is riding on this weekend's sales, Christmas isn't the end of the game for merchants. Ten percent of holiday sales happen in the week after Christmas.
  • Rome Neal

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