Last minute shopping - not yet | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

Last minute shopping - not yet

Getting ads for last minute shopping gift ideas the week before Christmas arrive with a misconception from the get go. Last minute shopping doesn't even come into play until the afternoon on Christmas Eve. Want a front seat view? Check out the jewelry store counter. There is typically a crowd of men there and a unmistakable sense of urgency. Area retailers reported a Black Friday that in some cases was their best ever, according to more than one big box store manager in Baxter. But recent reports have noted shoppers have been slowing down just when expectations were for, yes, as they call it "last minute" purchases to help bridge the gap.

It's unclear whether the Black Friday rush meant shoppers were getting things done early and were out in mass — it was the largest crowd ever in, at least recent memory, at Target for example — looking for discounts or whether consumers really were reacting with pent up demand after years of Great Recession cutbacks. Now only time will tell whether consumers reacted quickly to take advantage of bargains or whether their confidence in the economy and reduced fear of layoffs is fueling their spending.

Baxter officials reported Olive Garden representatives have attended recent meetings in the city, confirming their interest in the restaurant pad in front of Gander Mountain. But news of the addition of an IHOP there may have been too optimistic at this point. Work continues to create the Pizza Ranch space in the North Pointe Centre in Baxter. There are rumblings of a major big box retailer interested in the former Motor City site by Home Depot. Years ago previous developers were convinced the site would be a major draw for national brands like Old Navy.

That was before the recession when the lakes area was in a building boom. But concerns about the access appeared to outweigh the property's high visibility draw near the corner of Highways 371 and 210. Now land prices may have moved down significantly to make access woes less of an issue. Crow Wing County experienced an overall market value assessment reduction of $800 million. Countywide property values dropped about 7 percent. In a few weeks, area retailers will know if this holiday season was an improvement since the economic downturn. Maybe consumers have found a way to bundle deals, coupons and savings along with moderate expectations to avoid a spending hangover for 2011.

That may be one of the lasting lessons from these past difficult years where it seems the recession has touched everyone and left a significant impression.