Consumers Seek Connections

It’s likely to be a red, white and blue Christmas across much of the nation this year as Americans take comfort in patriotism and holiday rituals in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrrorist attacks that killed thousands of people.

Retailing experts say they already have seen much more of an emphasis on family and home, with holiday decorations selling much better than they usually sell this early in the season, reports CBS News Early Show Senior Correspondent Hattie Kauffman.

And if these sales are any indication, there are likely to be a lot of red, white and blue Christmas trees this year, particularly in New York, which took the brunt of the attacks. The city’s holiday window displays, which are legendary, are likely to be more patriotic than usual.

Tracy Mullin, president of the National Retail Federation, says the industry is predicting a 2.5 percent increase in holiday spending over last year. The biggest challenge, she says, will be for high-end retailers since surveys have shown consumers this fall have tended to do the bulk of their shopping with discounters.

October retail sales rose 7.1 percent. Bbut Mullin says that was an aberration fueled by auto dealerships which offered deep discounts in financing to car buyers. The trend is unlikely to continue through the holidays, she said.

While holiday shopping for toys and other items for children will be important, Mullin says consumers also will spend for special gifts for friends and family.

“Clearly, consumers want to connect and want to connect with people,” she says. “We expect people to be buying items of lasting value. Actually, a lot of jewelry people are saying they’re seeing an increase in engagement rings, so people want to give something of lasting value. They want something that’s home related.”

It will be mid-January before all the holiday numbers are in, she predicts. “Actually, the holiday season extends into January now, when retailers put a lot of goods on sale. We look at the whole holiday picture - from Thanksgiving to mid-January.”

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