This year's holiday shopping season was supposed to be a rough one for retailers, as the struggling national economy and the high unemployment rate is taking their toll on personal spending.

This year's holiday shopping season was supposed to be a rough one for retailers, as the struggling national economy and the high unemployment rate is taking their toll on personal spending.
And for many stores across the country, the projections of decreased sales proved accurate, according to several national reports.
But locally, many store managers said sales did not take a significant hit, but rather were as strong, if not stronger, than previous years.
Christopher Patrick, general manager at The Buckle inside Meadowbrook Mall, said his store experienced a strong holiday shopping season.
"I think we had the same amount of traffic as usual," he said, "and I think people are actually investing a little bit more than normal."
Patrick said if the economic woes did change buying habits this year, it changed them for the better locally, as many consumers did most of their shopping in Pittsburg, rather than traveling to other cities.
"People right now are spending more money with the companies that they trust," he said. "If they're out in a rush to buy something, they're going to go with those people who they trust and normally do business with. I think this year more than ever, they've invested in the people and the businesses that have helped them in the past."
Patrick O'Bryan, Pittsburg city commissioner and owner of Little's Inc., said he also witnessed an increase in local shopping, both in his store and throughout the city.
"I noticed a number of people who said they were doing all of their shopping in Pittsburg," he said. "They were shopping at home as opposed to going to the cities or to Joplin to spend their money. And in the course of that, they were discovering things about their own retail environment that they were not aware of before.
"Like in my store, for example, there were a lot of people who said, 'I've never been in here before. I didn't realize you had these kind of things,'" he said. "And I haven't crunched the numbers yet, but from what I've been able to tell, we had a very healthy holiday sales experience this year."
Chris Etheridge, store manager at Hastings, said the high demand for electronics and video game systems led many local customers into the store. He said Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS were among top sellers this year. He said the store did not offer any post-Christmas sales, but that did not hinder store traffic.
"We actually were pretty busy all this week," he said. "We didn't see much of a drop off at all this year."
Chad Comeau, owner of Comeau Jewelry, said sales in his Pittsburg location were down a bit from last year, but increased sales in the Joplin, Mo., store made up the difference.
"Fortunately, what I was off here in town I made up for across the state line," he said.
For the first time in years, sales of luxury items, including jewelry, plummeted this year. According to MasterCard Inc.'s SpendingPulse unit, sales of luxury goods, including jewelry, fell by nearly 35 percent. Excluding jewelry, sales plunged by 21 percent.
Comeau said while his stores didn't suffer significantly due to the economic turmoil, he did notice his customers were being a bit more conservative with their dollars this year.
"As a whole, people were looking for lower priced items this year," he said. "It's hard to say if that's because of the economy, but I would assume so."
In an attempt to increase sales at the beginning of the new year, Comeau said he will offer sale prices next month.
"We did not run any kind of sale last year, but we are going to run a sale in mid-January," he said. "We'll hopefully spur some things in the month of January, when things tend to drop off a little bit."
Managers at some of the city's larger stores, including Wal-Mart, The Home Depot and Big Lots, declined to comment for this story.
Steve Scott, store manager at JC Penney, also did not comment other than to say that the store was "very busy."
Mastercard's SpendingPulse reported a decline in holiday sales of 5.5 percent in November and 8 percent in December through Christmas Eve. However, excluding gasoline sales, retail totals dropped by 2.5 percent in November and 4 percent in December. Gasoline sales plunged by 40 percent from the year before, according to the study.