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San Diego Holiday Shopping Bouncing Back

— The weather outside might have been frightful, but families lined up for photos with Santa and shoppers weighed down with bags filled Plaza Bonita Mall this week.

A report from the San Diego Association of Governments showed that as of December 16th retail sales were up nearly 9 percent compared to last year. And watching shoppers shuffle by, weighed down with bags of gifts at Plaza Bonita Mall, it’s easy to believe San Diegans are spending more.

Marney Cox, SANDAG chief economist said this year’s gains only get us a quarter of the way back to where holiday sales were at before the recession.

Stephanie Tunstill may have been looking for gifts at the mall, but just how much is she willing to spend? “Less than I have in the past,” Tunstill said. “I’m looking for deals, but depending on what it is, I’m willing to go, to exceed my budget.”

She isn’t alone. This is Livia Nowlin’s first Christmas in the U.S. The Brazil-native said she has been making almost daily visits to the mall to find the lowest prices on gifts.

“I’m pregnant, so everyday I go a little and see,” Nowlin said. “I live here in these apartments next to the mall. So, I come and see and that’s it.”

Retailers in the county added about 3,700 jobs in October and November to handle the holiday rush. But plenty of consumers’ dollars, including Tunstill’s, are bypassing local stores.

“I usually do online shopping. I find myself spending more online than I do in the actual stores,” she said.

Cox said not to count on retailers retaining those employees in the new year, though. The growth of retail sales is expected to slow after the Christmas rush.

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