Poll Shows Consumer Spending On The Rise - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

04/16/03 - East Texas

Poll Shows Consumer Spending On The Rise

   President Bush says a $550 billion tax cut would get money back into the hands of American consumers. However, with military success in Iraq, an ABC news poll already shows an increase in consumer confidence. The poll says compared to 52 % last month, only 37 % of Americans believe the economy is actually getting worse.

   Some East Texas consumers and business leaders already have reason to be optimistic. The Tyler unemployment rate is a whole point below the state average, and consumer spending has remained consistent, according to Tom Mullins with the Tyler Chamber of Commerce.

   When Skip Stanger, a manager at A-1 pools, first heard about a possible war, he immediately worried about profit cuts.

  "Obviously, one of the first things to go by the way side (in a tight economy) would be luxury items, which would be swimming pools" recalls Stanger. "However, with the interest rate being as low as it is and still dropping, our business has done very well."

   Just four months into 2003, Stanger has already met about half his annual sales goal.

   And on a smaller scale, consumers are still going for the small luxuries like their morning java fix. Even though Paul Stein is skeptical about the economy, he's not giving up his ordinary spending habits, which include frequent visits to Starbucks.

   "I definitely think confidence is down," he says. "I think people are thinking twice about the large ticket items, but obviously habits need to be supported. I think lower ticket items are definitely not going to be affected."

   And at the European Skin Care and Day Spa business is up this year. A little bit of personal pampering has taken the company along way. Owner Robbie Kelley calls the dire economic predictions very much overblown.

   "We are 30% over where we were this time last year," says Kelley. "The people I know who are in business for themselves have not seen a dip in their finances over last year."

   Mullins say in Smith County the retail and hotel industries took a minor hit. But he says, "in Tyler people are not curving their spending like in other parts of Texas."

   Kerri Panchuk, reporting.

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