• Last-minute shoppers fill the malls on Monday afternoon

    By: Linzi Sheldon


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Many last-minute shoppers braved the rain and mall traffic to get the gifts they still needed Monday afternoon.

    Crowds filled the parking lot and stores at Northlake Mall, which was open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

    But according to a monthly index released by Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan on Firday, overall consumer confidence is at its lowest point since July.

    That index said it's because of dampened spirits after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., and worries that lawmakers won't strike a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff, causing a hike in everyone's taxes.

    "That's still always in the back of your mind," Tricia Beatty said, acknowledging worries about the fiscal cliff.

    ShopperTrak, a market research firm that tracks data from 40,000 retail outlets across the country, originally forecasted holiday sales to be up by 3.3 percent.

    But recently the firm revised it to 2.5 percent instead, below last year's increase of 3.5 percent.

    "I would say generally what they're feeling is a kind of uncertainty, an unease and that's certainly going to affect a bit their willingness to splurge," Queens University economics and business professor Harry Bowen said.

    But fiscal cliff or not, consumers said they will spend if the price is right.

    At women's clothing store Cache, where discounts have reached 60 percent, the store manager said business is up.

    Some customers said this year, stores need to compete even more to get their money.

    "I'm trying not to spend as much," Beatty said. "Once you get into the stores, that always changes too."

    "I'm all about sales, if it's not on sale, I usually just don't buy it," Avonia Devaughn said.

    Northlake Mall general manager Phil Morosco said overall, stores are showing a slight increase in sales.

    "There are some stores that are not going to beat last year, but there's a lot of stores that did well," he said.

    He said a big factor will be whether shoppers come out for the after Christmas deals. Final holiday sales numbers will be available in mid-January.

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