TAMPA, Fla. — Virginia Reynolds is trying to get into the holiday shopping spirit. Thursday, she and a friend visited a Tampa Walmart store looking for gingerbread cookie ingredients.
But making bigger purchases can be tough right now for Reynolds, who’s retiring soon.
“Because of the availability of things, the gas prices going up — it makes it hard, you know, I mean, especially if you’re on a limited income,” she said. “You have to watch what you’re buying. You don’t want to end up in the hole.”
Ultimately, Reynolds said she’s less likely to purchase big-ticket items this holiday season.
That sentiment is echoed in a recent survey conducted by the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research.
According to the survey, in October, consumer sentiment declined again for the third straight month to 71.3, down 3.6 points from 74.9 in September and down 5 points from the pandemic low recorded in April 2020.
“This is just another piece of evidence telling that consumers are worried.” said Dr. Hector Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. “One of things is the current rise in prices — the inflation situation — that’s something that is actually behind many of these expectations and opinions about the economy.”
Sandoval says people who took the survey were also asked if they’re comfortable making big purchases right now. That measure plummeted 6.5 points from 69.1 to 62.6.
Sandoval can’t say when the numbers will improve to pre-pandemic levels.
“That will take time. I mean, I don’t see that coming back in the next year,” he said. “I think, for now, the main challenge is really inflation — whether that’s going to keep going into the next year. And also whether these supply problems, including...the shortage of labor, whether that’s going to be resolved next year.”
But Sandoval said there is some silver lining since some aspects of the economy are improving. Additionally, he believes holiday spending will ultimately be greater than it was in 2020, when the effects of the pandemic were more pronounced.
“I mean, it’s getting easier this year,” she said. “Last year, you know, when the pandemic first started, it was a little on the depressing side, but it’s getting better.”
But she says the economy has not improved enough to allow her to buy big gifts for friends and family members — with one exception.
“Except for my grandchildren,” she said with a smile. “Always got to do it for the grandchildren.”
To see the full result of the survey, click here.