An Iowa State University expert on retail sales predicts it’ll be a “Blue Christmas” for Iowa retailers. Dr. Kenneth Stone says higher energy prices and heavy mortgage loads will spook shoppers into keeping a tighter reign on their wallets during the holiday shopping season. Stone says there was just a three- percent increase in Iowa retail sales during the 1999 holiday season — right at the inflation rate — which shakes out to no increase.Stone says consumers buy best when they’re confident about the future. He says unexpected increases in things like energy prices make people less likely to spend.Even if sales are up four percent this holiday season, Stone says that doesn’t mean all retailers will do well because there are more stores in Iowa. He says the major metro areas are saturated and that increased competition could make it tougher for stores to make any improvement in sales.The eight largest Iowa cities have become retail trade centers, to the detriment of rural businesses. He says the eight cities with population 50-thousand people do have of the business in the state.
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