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Are retailers prepared for scrooge this holiday season?

Georgia Southern University’s annual holiday survey of consumers in the Coastal Empire and Low Country predicts that consumers will spend less than last year. Are retailers ready to face the cut in consumer spending?

The short answer, according to the annual survey of retailers conducted by the College of Business Administration (COBA) at Georgia Southern University: yes, but they won’t like it.

Only 15 percent of retailers think the economy is better this year than in 2006, an 18 percent drop in confidence compared to last year. Fifty-two percent of retailers thought the economy was worse this year. In fact, this year’s COBA survey recorded the lowest confidence in the economy since this survey was implemented in 2004.

‘When we asked businesses about their companies’ financial status, about 11 percent said their company was worse in 2007,” said Jeremy Hill, assistant director of Georgia Southern’s Bureau of Business Research and Economic Development, who oversees the annual survey. ‘To further validate these results, we asked if companies had hired additional employees in 2007. Sixty-seven percent of retailers did not hire new full-time employees, a definite indicator of a slow market and a cautious outlook.”

When asked specifically about the holiday season, about 37 percent said holiday sales would be the same or better than 2006, a 7 percent decrease from 2007. On the other hand, 22 percent said holiday sales would be worse than last year, a figure up significantly (13 percent) from last year.

Another issue addressed in the survey is the ability of businesses to meet changing demands of consumers, such as making purchases on the Internet. While holiday purchasing on the Web has increased every years, the percent of businesses within the Coastal Empire and Low Country with Internet sales capability has remained flat at about 19 percent.

To read complete results of the survey, go to http://www.livingoak.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=118&Itemid=48

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