The traditional Christmas selling season begins this Friday, and retailers are crossing their fingers and hoping that consumers will spend, spend, spend.
"At this point we think it's going to be a reasonably good Christmas," said James Hayner, district manager of the J.C. Penney stores in the metropolitan area.
But given the uncertainty over consumer spending, especially in light of last month's stock market collapse, "Everyone is walking on eggshells hoping business will stay the same and not get worse," Hayner said.
Retailers say there are few new products that will be hot sellers this year. Even in toys, where new items have topped the Christmas lists in years past, the best sellers appear to be established favorites.
Another sign of consumer willingness to spend will appear Tuesday when Detroit releases 10-day auto sales figures for mid-November. Since Black Monday, when economists and manufacturers began watching the auto sales reports nervously, the industry reported gains of 11 percent for October and 2.2 percent for early November.
Meanwhile, the Commerce Department will issue on Tuesday a revised estimate of the pace of the economy during the third quarter. The preliminary report showed gross national product growing at a brisk annual rate of 3.8 percent.
Since then, more information about inventories and trade has become available to sharpen the accuracy of the estimate. But economists say the the market collapse has diminished the significance of the third-quarter data as a guide to where the economy is heading now