Poll reveals drop in consumer sentiment, expected holiday spending

After a move to a more visible corner location in downtown Fredericksburg, the owner of Ladyburg Apothecary said the store has hit a sweet spot in sales.

With the exception of election week, owner Crystal Wellman said sales at the 726 Caroline Street bath and body shop have been higher each week, with a higher average sale amount.

Wellman is seeing a regional trend described in the most recent Roanoke College Virginia Consumer Sentiment and Inflation Report, produced quarterly to illustrate consumer confidence and anticipated spending. The poll used a sample of 606 Virginians.

But when it comes to statewide projections, she seems to be bucking the trend.

In November 2016, Southwest Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley and Central Virginia—which the Fredericksburg region is part of, all show economic optimism. Consumer sentiment is down, however, in the state as a whole, and holiday spending is not expected to be as robust this year.

The Virginia Index of Consumer Sentiment is 95.1 out of 100, down three points since August 2016, the measure’s record high.

According to the poll, the election affected the way people shopped.

For Wellman, events in Fredericksburg have boosted sales. She said the downtown Holiday Open House helped people get into the store and see what she offers. She said a flood of sales came in during the days following the event as people returned for early Christmas shopping.

“We are having to staff in November like we normally only would for December,” she said.

For the holidays, she is bringing in new product lines such as handmade bath robes, and offered customers deals on Small Business Saturday.

Spending, according to the poll, is expected to drop slightly from last quarter. The poll said Virginia consumers plan to spend 2.4 percent less relative to last quarter, despite the holidays. The only spending increases relative to last quarter are in transportation services and “other goods and services,” a category that includes personal care services such as those sold by Ladyburg.

Other categories typically associated with holiday gifting, including apparel, are expected to fall relative to last quarter.

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