After getting the New York Times and iced tea at the Starbucks on Signal Butte Road in far east Mesa near our house this morning, we moseyed over to the shopping center across the street to check out Christmas Eve shopping at the Wal-Mart SuperCenter.
It was just 9 a.m., but we thought the store would be more crowded.
The Great Recession has hit this part of the Phoenix metro area hard, with lots of foreclosures and a halt and reversal of the phenomenal Arizonan growth early in this decade (our house was bought in 1999).
Where we live, the Apache Junction unified school district, whose greatest problem always seemed to be keeping up with demands of an exponentially growing community, is now contemplating closing two schools due to fewer students.
Although yesterday's Census figures show Arizona still growing slightly, local leaders suspect the numbers are a desert mirage and that Cactus State growth is at a standstill or even declining like our former home state of Florida.
Still, we were surprised by the empty aisles and lack of shoppers. Of course, maybe everyone did their Christmas shopping on time. Or maybe the last-minute people will come later in the day.
Anyway, according to the New York Times blog Bucks yesterday:
Retailing groups...have been noticing that shoppers have been procrastinating a bit more than usual this year. According to the National Retail Federation’s 2009 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch and released last week, the average person had completed 46.7 percent of their holiday shopping by the second week of December, less than the 47.1 percent completed by this time last year and the lowest percentage since 2004.
But most of the people at the cash registers seemed to be buying groceries, not gifts.
Certainly, a few people were stocking up on Christmas presents, but we didn't see much evidence of frantic last-day shopping here.
Of course, we have nothing to compare what we saw today with, so this could be a very good Christmas shopping season for all we know.
Through the 1980s and early 1990s, our family had a place at the Fort Lauderdale Swap Shop, the South's largest flea market, and we were highly attuned to the ups and downs of Christmases in years of recession and boom.
For the sake of the 2010 economy and our fragile recovery, let's hope everyone got out and spent more than we did.
After paying about $16 for socks and underwear - with only one guy with one item ahead of us at the cash register - we headed home to Apache Junction. As often as we see it, we're always in awe as we approach majestic Superstition Mountain.