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Local shoppers brave the cold

December 19, 2016 GMT

Ready or not, Christmas is less than a week away. And even though everyone has had a year to prepare, many people have been trying to cram their entire Christmas shopping into seven days.

Phyllis Vass, Ferris, Ill., is one of the many people who got started on her shopping only Friday. Apparently she already had too much on her plate and now was hard at work getting ready to play Santa. Standing in the toy department, she was armed with the latest gadgets, inspecting the latest toys.

“I’m taking pictures of the toys and sending them to my daughter on my phone,” Vass said. “This way I can be sure to get what the kids want without getting them something my daughter already has.”

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Several people were wandering stores, picking up last minute stocking stuffers. Jeanne and Brad Keester, Fort Madison, were looking at gloves. With the forecast calling for temperatures in the negative degrees, who wouldn’t want extra layers of clothing?

The shopping season kicked off with a tremendous bang with most merchants thrilled with Black Friday results and smaller stores happy with the outcome of the American Express Shop Small annual promotion. But how were people spending overall?

Shopko Apparel Manager Angela Jessen said this season’s sales have been steady, although down just a bit.

“But retail sales are down everywhere,” Jessen said. “We are doing just as good as any other Shopko store or any other retailer for that matter.”

Jessen was speaking on Friday when people were getting ready for winter weather.

“Right now things are slow but I think that has a lot to do with the weather,” Jessen said. “Unless things get really bad, I think the season will finish well.”

According to the American Research Group, shoppers around the country say they are planning to spend an average of $929 for gifts this holiday season, up from $882 last year according to the annual survey on holiday spending. Planned gift spending for 2016 is $47 above spending in 2015 and it is the first time planned gift spending has exceeded $900 since 2006.