Shoppers descended on Sacramento area malls in droves today, eager to squeeze out more bargains as retailers hoped for a post-Christmas boomlet to salvage a disappointing holiday season.
"The sales are insane," said Roseville resident Alex Medina as he strolled through a crowded Westfield Galleria at Roseville with his wife and three young boys.
National retail statistics suggested it was a less-than-terrific holiday shopping season. MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, an affiliate of the credit card issuer, said retail sales grew just 0.7 percent from Oct. 28 to Dec. 24. That compared with a 2 percent growth rate a year ago.
The International Council of Shopping Centers provided a somewhat rosier picture, saying sales were up 3.2 percent during the week that ended last Saturday.
Shoppers said they had simply become more cautious, despite the improving economy. The discouraging political news out of Washington, with warnings of higher taxes and the "fiscal cliff," didn't help.
"The fiscal cliff is a little nerve-wracking," said Medina's wife, Amanda.
Sung Won Sohn, an economist at California State University, Channel Islands, said many Americans "aren't sure if we're going to be in a recession next year - they don't want to take any chances."
Sohn, vice chairman of the Forever 21 retail chain, said shoppers have also gotten pickier - refusing to hit the malls unless they're assured of a great deal.
That spirit was echoed by Carrie Chew of Elk Grove, who visited the Galleria with her daughter. "We're all here for the sales. If they don't have great sales, what's the point?"