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Shoppers, retailers have different take on holiday season

A UW-Madison researcher says this year's holiday shopping season finds retailers optimistic ... and consumers cautious. Consumer science professor Cynthia Jasper says retailers are ringing in the holiday season with new and more competitive promo...

A UW-Madison researcher says this year's holiday shopping season finds retailers optimistic ... and consumers cautious.

Consumer science professor Cynthia Jasper says retailers are ringing in the holiday season with new and more competitive promotions, and trying out new hours to maximize shopper turnout. Some retailers were even open on Thanksgiving, notes Jasper. She says while it's always hard to predict exactly what's going to happen, many retailers -- the National Retail Federation in particular -- believe there will be increase in holiday shopping.

"Probably over 2 percent," cites Jasper.

But Jasper adds while the recession is technically over, people are still seeing high unemployment - and underemployment - around them, which makes them frugal. She says if malls look a little less crowded this year, retailers still have another venue to rely on: online shopping.

"Online shopping is the one area that expected to grow again this year," says Jasper. "Every single year for about the past 15 years, we've seen at least 2 to 3-percent of growth in terms of online shopping. But even though consumers are shopping more online, shopping in stores with family and friends is still a social event for lots of people so I'm not sure online shopping will ever overtake that completely."

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Jasper says this year, retailers are competing with each other with free shipping and other perks. And while some have cut back on advertising because of hard economic times, she says the more successful ones are still churning out the ads.

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