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‘Everyone’s hurting,’ Local retailers nervous as holidays approach

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Dipping his brush in paint, Scott Wagoner readies his pop up shop for business and worries how many customers will come in.

"There's no way we'll capture what we lost this year," he told NewsChannel 4. "We bought a little heavier for Christmas to try to make up for it, and that's why we're worried."

He's far from alone, in a year where Oklahoma City retailers have struggled, evidenced by sales tax collections, which have continually missed targets.

"We've been surprised the downturn has lasted as long as it has because things like the oil and gas industry seem to be on the upturn but our city revenues haven't seen that yet," Budget Director Doug Dowler said, after presenting ideas for budget cuts to the city council. "We were hoping the local economy would begin to be picking up at this point. It hasn't yet, so we're taking action now before things become more dire and we have to take more extreme steps."

Dowler's comments come after Oklahoma City released its latest report on sales and use tax collections.

The data for November shows income down 5.8 percent from this time last year.

In fact, sales and use tax collections have been below targets in 13 of the last 14 months.

Local economists tell Dowler Oklahoma City will end the year with a reduction in sales tax collections, despite the rush to buy gifts in November and December.

"I think a lot of people's buying habits are psychological as well as financial," he told NewsChannel 4. "So, it may be that people are getting back to work or are making money but they're not quite yet comfortable spending those dollars on things like extras or electronics or other things that will generate sales tax."

That's bad news for the 50 retailers who occupy the annual OKC Pop Up Shops in Midtown, who are hoping shoppers can find the holiday spirit.

"It's been a rough year for a lot of retailers and that means it's been a rough year for Oklahoma City too," said Allison Bailey, who produces the pop ups each year. "These two months will make or break their year for them. A lot of them make most of their income now, during holiday season."

Retailers are focusing in on items with lower price points this year, Bailey said, hoping to bring window shoppers to the cash register.

"If you are on a budget this holiday season, I think it's really important to put a lot of care into the gift that you purchase," she said. "And, I know our shop owners can help you do that."

The pop up shops run from Nov. 25 - Dec. 22.

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