Utah consumer attitudes 'in the black'

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 29 2011 5:21 p.m. MST

Caressa Swenson shops at the Hip & Humble store in Salt Lake City Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011. Zions Bank released the results of its November Utah Consumer Attitude Index.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The first big weekend for the 2011 holiday shopping season proved to be among the most profitable in recently memory for merchants big and small in Utah and across the country.

"Black Friday results were record setting," said Scott Hardy, vice president of the Cicero Group/Dan Jones Associates. "The four-day period between Thanksgiving and Sunday saw U.S. consumer spending of $54.2 billion — that's up by $7.4 billion over last year, a 16 percent increase."

Similar results were seen for Cyber Monday, he added, with online sales climbing 18 percent over 2010 — "both record-setting levels in terms of consumer spending."

Hardy said the strong start to holiday spending offered positive economic indicators for the state and the country, since about 40 percent of annual retail sales occur during the holiday season.

While crowds of people stormed big box stores in search of incredible deals over the Black Friday weekend, a bunch more hit local shops looking for items not typically found in chain stores — spurred, in part, by Salt Lake City's "Buy Local First" campaign.

Among the local retailers impacted by the holiday shopping blitz were Sheridan Mordue and Suzette Eaton, sibling co-owners of Hip and Humble — a local boutique located in the 9th and 9th neighborhood.

"Buy Local week was a huge success for us," said Eaton. "We really saw a lot of our customers expressing that they really wanted to spend their money locally. It was the biggest Black Friday (weekend) in the history of our store in 12 years."

Mordue said sales for their Salt Lake store climbed 5 percent compared to the same period last year, and about 4 percent overall for 2011. The pair also operates boutique locations in Bountiful and Sandy.

"We've had slow and steady growth for the last six or seven years at our downtown location," Mordue said. While growth has not been as robust at their Davis County location, she said there has been "nice, steady growth," which they believe is a positive indicator of things to come for the Utah economy.

Meanwhile, the attitude of Utah consumers held virtually steady for November. The Zions Bank Consumer Attitude Index was 67.7 for the month, down slightly from 68.1 in October.

The Utah index was nearly 12 points higher than the U.S. Consumer Confidence Index of 56.0, showing more optimism than the national average.

The CAI’s Present Situation Index, a snapshot of current business conditions and employment, fell 5.6 points to 41.5 — still higher than the national CCI Present Situation Index that registered at 38.3. The Expectations Index — a proxy for consumers’ expected changes in business conditions, jobs, and personal income — rose 3.0 points in Utah to 85.2, equal to the national CCI Expectations Index that jumped 17.8 points to also register at 85.2 for the month.

The CAI is based on a representative sample of 500 Utah households surveyed by The Cicero Group/Dan Jones & Associates. 

E-mail: jlee@desnews.com

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