Spend for the holidays, commerce secretary urges

Associated Press

CHICAGO — U.S. Commerce Secretary Don Evans says the economy is primed for a rebound if Americans would just open their wallets during the holiday shopping season.

"People ask all the time, ‘What can I do, what sacrifices can I make for my country?’ " Evans said at the first in a series of "America Works" forums Monday in Chicago. "One thing is moving on through fears. Go back to the stores."

But top retailers on Evans’ panel at the University of Chicago said many consumers aren’t heeding the call at the start of the holiday season. Sears chief executive Alan Lacy said revenues are down 3 to 4 percent since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

He said people are buying more household goods and home-improvement items, possibly because they feel like spending time with their families. But other items such as clothing and luggage aren’t selling as well.

"People want to stay home and watch the news on their big-screen high-definition TVs these days," Lacy said.

Crate and Barrel chief Gordon Segal said the high-end household goods retailer is having to adjust as people stop buying luxuries and focus on needs.

"We all believed in ‘97, ‘98 and ‘99 that we were all geniuses," Segal said. "Most specialty stores are selling things people want, not what people need."

Examples of these new shoppers were evident nearby at the Sears department store on State Street where Sandra Ross, 49, of Chicago, was looking for sheets and pillow cases.

"I went in for some of the more traditional things," Ross said.

Still, she works across the street at a T.J. Maxx store and said she sees enough shoppers to make her confident in the economy.

"People find a way to shop. They have a need to shop," she said. "They’re going to max out their credit cards."

Bush administration economic advisers on the panel said the government is doing what it can. Declining interest rates appeared to help before Sept. 11, as did tax cuts, said Larry Lindsey, assistant to the president for economic policy.

But to fight the post-terrorism slide, he said Congress should pass the further tax cuts and spending programs in the president’s economic stimulus package.

SeamCraft chief executive Stephen Stack told Evans any economic stimulus should include a requirement that tax dollars be spent only in America. His Chicago company tried to win a contract supplying bags to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, but lost out to a Chinese supplier.

"Without factories, there is no America," he said.

Toni Fonseca, who files documentation for immigrants and represents minority-owned shops with Chicago’s 47th Street Chamber of Commerce, said she fears the stimulus package will help only big business.

"Everyone here is talking about millions (of dollars)," she said. "But where does the small business stand?"

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

FILE - In this file photo dated Monday, March 11, 2019, rescuers work at the scene of an Ethiopian Airlines plane crash south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  The number of deaths in major air crashes around the globe fell by more than half in 2019 according to a report released Wednesday Jan. 1, 2020, by the aviation consultancy To70, revealing the worst crash for the year was an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX on March 10 that lost 157 lives. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene, FILE)
US board says Boeing Max likely hit a bird before 2019 crash

U.S. accident investigators disagree with Ethiopian authorities over the cause of a 2019 Boeing 737 Max crash.

Paddywack co-owner Shane Somerville with the 24-hour pet food pantry built by a local Girl Scout troop outside of her store on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022 in Mill Creek, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
An out-paw-ring of support: Mill Creek pantry feeds pets, day or night

With help from local Girl Scouts, the Mill Creek pet food store Paddywack is meeting the need for pet supplies in a pinch.

Kelly Cameron is the woodworker behind Clinton-based business Turnco Wood Goods. (David Welton)
Whidbey woodworkers turn local lumber into art

In the “Slab Room” at Madrona Supply Co., customers can find hunks of wood native to the south end of Whidbey Island.

Siblings Barbara Reed and Eric Minnig, who, co-own their parent’s old business Ken’s Camera along with their brother Bryan, stand outside the Evergreen Way location Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022, in Everett, Washington. After five decades in business, Ken’s will be closing its last two locations for good at the end of the year. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Print it or lose it: Ken’s Camera closes after decades caught on film

The local legend, processing film photos since 1971, will close its locations in Mount Vernon and Everett at the end of 2022.

Store owner Jay Behar, 50, left, and store manager Dan Boston, 60, right, work to help unload a truck of recliners at Behar's Furniture on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023. Behar's Furniture on Broadway in Everett is closing up shop after 60 years in business. The family-owned furniture store opened in 1963, when mid-century model styles were all the rage. Second-generation owner, Jay Behar says it's time to move on. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Behar’s Furniture in Everett closing after 60 years

“It’s time to move on.” The small family-owned store opened in 1963 and grew to cover an entire city block.

Katy Woods, a Licensed Coach, Branch Manager, and experienced Banker at Coastal Community Bank.
Coastal Community Bank Offers Classes for Businesses

To support local business owners and their teams, Coastal offers complimentary Money… Continue reading

Innovative Salon Products online fulfillment employees, from left, Stephanie Wallem, Bethany Fulcher, Isela Ramirez and Gretchen House, work to get orders put together on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, at the company’s facility in Monroe, Washington. The company began including pay, benefits and perks to its job listings over a year ago, well ahead of the new statewide mandate to include a pay range on job postings at companies with over 15 employees. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New state law requires employers to give pay range in job postings

Washington’s new pay transparency law aims to narrow wage gaps based on race or gender — though some companies may seek loopholes.

Nelson Petroleum on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘Egregious:’ Everett fuel company repeatedly broke water standards

Nelson Petroleum faces a lawsuit from an Everett Mall Way strip mall over discharges into a nearby wetland.

Mike Lane and son Dave Lane, right, in front of their family store Everett Vacuum with their popular sign and saying, “everything we sell sucks” on Thursday, April 7, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Suck it up — and shop it up — at Everett Vacuum

After 80 years on Broadway, the family-run store with the “Everything we sell sucks” sign moved to Hewitt Avenue.

Customers leave J. Matheson Gifts Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett’s longtime J. Matheson gift store finds new life in Seattle

Miranda Matheson had her mother’s blessing when she opened a new J. Matheson Urban Gifts & Kitchens in Green Lake.

Carla Fisher and Lana Lasley take a photo together with Tommy Chong during 210 Cannabis Co’s grand opening Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022, in Arlington, Washington. Fisher and Lasley waited in line solely to get a photo with Chong. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Stillaguamish Tribe opens retail cannabis shop

More than 1,500 attended a grand opening on Dec. 10. The venture comes amid a boom in tribal cannabis stores.

Franco Montano works on putting together a wreath at his workshop on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022 in Monroe, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Monroe man runs taco truck by day, makes 100 wreaths by night

Franco Montano, a former factory worker, started making the holiday wreaths in 2008. He has expanded into a thriving family business.