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Holiday shoppers say they're spending less

November 22, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

Nary a parking space was to be had Saturday afternoon at Hagerstown's Prime Outlets, but that doesn't mean everyone was spending lots of money.

"Who would like to be in debt after Christmas?" said Marlene Johnson, who made the trip to the outlet mall from her home in Baltimore.

Johnson, 46, said she plans to spend less during the holiday season than she did last year and has learned her lesson from past holiday extravagance.

"I want to live No more. You learn from your mistakes," she said.

Despite a booming economy and high consumer confidence, many holiday shoppers said they plan to cut back this year, for a variety of reasons.

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For Hagerstown resident Elsie Sharer, 76, it's a case of growing older.

"The kids are all getting bigger and don't need as much," she said. "Give 'em a little money and let them go on."

Sharer's friend, Cora Melback, 70, said she, too, will opt for cash gifts.

"My grandchildren want to buy their own things. I just give them money," she said. "Kids have their own idea of style."

But many people jamming the malls and shopping centers over the weekend said they were likely to spend more money than a year ago.

"I already have spent more," said Brenda Smith, who was sitting on a bench at Valley Mall on Saturday. "Everything's going well. Good job. Everything's good."

Smith, 47, of Greencastle, Pa., said she has finished her Christmas shopping.

Roger Hutchinson, of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., said he also plans to spend more money on holiday shopping.

"I think things are more expensive now," he said.

His wife, Lisa, added: "Not only that, it seems like companies are giving more benefits this year."

Some had practical reasons for spending more money during the holidays.

"I have more family this year," said Shayla Clark, 21, of Hagerstown.

But some said they were prevented from spending more because of personal finances.

That doesn't mean they don't wish they could afford more.

"If I had more money, I'd probably spend more," said Walkersville, Md., resident Angela Schetromph. "Next year, I hope to spend a lot more, and I'll probably come here."

Randall Hudson, who made the trip to Prime Outlets with his family from Stafford, Va., said they've already spent more money for this year's holiday season than last.

His wife, Dorene, said the good economy gives her a secure feeling during the holidays.

"I think we feel more optimistic than we did a couple of months ago," she said.

Lori Wiggins, 30, said she is definitely spending less. Now that she is a full-time student in California, she said she has less money to spend.

Hagerstown resident Brook Randolph, 26, said he plans to spend less this year, with an eye toward the future. He said he is worried about the havoc the Year 2000 computer bug might wreak on banks, electric companies and other facets of society.

"I guess we're just watching our money for the year 2000," he said. "Just in case anything happens."

Then there are people like Pete Garnett.

"I usually spend the same each year," said the 31-year-old Hagerstown resident. "I try to keep it at that."

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