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Retail Signs Vary For Coming Season

At Santa's chair display in Springfield Mall, Gayle Spurr, mall marketing representative, and Valerie Harte, director of special events leasing, watched the customer traffic and discussed the coming holiday season, which is vital in the retail world.

"We kind of keep a running trend. Traffic's up," she said optimistically.

Their counts show higher numbers than last year. Six percent higher, Spurr said.

Santa’s debut was Friday, Nov. 15, in a teddy bear chair instead of a snow-covered cottage like in past years. Harte had a count for the first weekend.

"We're up from last year," she said also.

Around the stores, the outlook was optimistic as well. Some retail establishments look at the holiday season for up to 60 percent of their annual sales. A bad year could be detrimental, and several factors this year — the bleak economic outlook, unemployment, the sniper and threat of war overseas — have an influence as well. The numbers for October were down but jumped back in November, according to Spurr.

"It picked up," she said.

Elsewhere in Springfield, people are watching business closely as well. Nancy-jo Manney is the executive director at the Springfield Chamber of Commerce. Although only about 20 percent of the Chamber's members are in retail, she hears the word on the street.

"The merchants at the Mall are positive. For a lot of retail, this is their time of year," she said.

Marketing efforts are in full force though, Manney noticed.

"People are doing as much as they can as early as they can as far as marketing," she said.

SHELLEY JENNINGS is the owner of Collectible Treasures in the Keene Mill Center in West Springfield, along with her husband, Lanny. They are planning to open a second store in Lorton in January. Jennings has seen business pick up since Election Day and plans to put in a second cash register at the counter.

"For us it seems to be, I don't think it's going be different from last year," she said.

She is keeping her eye on world events, though.

"I'm really nervous about the economy and terrorists. If we have an attack of any kind, I can see things falling apart quickly," she said.

Del. Dave Albo (R-42nd) shops in the Keene Mill Center occasionally. He has noticed a cutback on some levels.

"Seems to me people are going to be spending less. There's not going to be the money floating around like last year," he said.

Around the homes, the reactions vary. Cathy Wilson treats it with a “naughty or nice” attitude. She also thinks the low interest rates have a role for not cutting back.

"Not in our household, maybe a little bit more. We have good kids," she said.

A fellow Springfield resident who wanted to remain nameless has noticed a cutback at work. She has one child.

"My first job just cut my hours, business is slow. If I were going to cut anywhere, it would be on myself," she said.

Fellow Springfield resident Angela Simpson is affected by her job as well. She's looking at picking up more shifts when possible.

"I'm going to have to be pretty tight this year with how much I spend," she said.

Burke resident Robyn Haskins intends on toeing the line.

"Probably spending the same," she said.

Ashley Wise was out looking for a Christmas job.

"I think more people will buy stuff, there's more gadgets out there. I'm trying to get a job so I can buy better presents," she said.

ALBO LOOKED at the overall low unemployment numbers in November, which is typical of this area due to the presence of the federal government. In mid-November though, there didn't seem to be as many Help Wanted signs in the windows as usual. It may be early for the Christmas help, though. Some may be waiting for "Black Friday," the Friday after Thanksgiving, which is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year.

Springfield Mall does keep listings of its employment opportunities at the Rest Stop, their Web site and the customer service desk. There were six job openings at the customer service desk on Nov. 18. Shirley Farrar is a customer service representative. She thought that the number of available jobs was low.

"It could be related to the economy," she said.

Manney has heard that some companies are looking for employees.

"I've heard from a lot of people that want part-time people now," she said.

Karen Black did a lot of her shopping on the computer this year. It's her baby’s first Chanukah, but she's done with her shopping.

"It seemed like it was mobbed at Pentagon City yesterday," she said.

At Merle Norman Cosmetics in Springfield Mall, Linda Osterday had a good weekend on Nov. 14 and 15.

"This month has been terrific. We're doing better than last year," she said.