Retailers hope for 'frugal fatigue'

Shoppers could come down with “frugal fatigue” this holiday season, potentially sparking higher retail sales as consumers rebound from their economic gloom, experts said Tuesday.

They were part of a panel at the Glendale Galleria — a regional retail powerhouse — as representatives highlighted the hottest toys and gadgets for the upcoming holiday shopping season.

“[Shoppers] may think to themselves, ‘I do need to replace some things,’” said Kimberly Ritter-Martinez, associate economist with the Kyser Center for Economic Research and Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. “It may be a new sweater or a new computer.”

Psychologist Leslie Reisner agreed, pointing out that the vast majority of U.S. residents are still employed, they’re getting used to the tepid economy and may feel it’s safe to open their wallets a bit more this year.

Even with the possibility that shoppers may tire of penny-pinching, Ritter-Martinez made a moderate holiday sales forecast of between a 2.5% and 3% improvement over last year.

Popular gifts this year include Monster High dolls — contemporary female versions of dark classic characters, such as Dracula and the Mummy — and the Ninjago games, in which participants decide whether to fight for good or evil and then build an army to conquer opposing forces.

Video games continue to be popular. The GameStop store put 22 new games on sale Tuesday, joining the thousands of titles already in the store’s inventory, said associate Jirair Yessaian.

Remote-controlled helicopters, rovers and race cars are as hot as ever, reps said, only now they can be operated from a smart phone or iPad.

“We can turn your smart phone into a fun phone and your iPad into a drive pad,” said Bernie Bregman from Brookstone as he demonstrated some of the latest gadgets.

For young children, moving plush toys, such as Elmo banging on bongos or Mickey Mouse rocking with a guitar, may be at the top of their gift lists.

To tap into the busiest shopping day of the year as early as possible, Macy’s and Target plan to open at midnight on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Several other retailers and eateries will join them, said Shoshana Puccia, senior marketing manager at the Galleria.

The rest of the mega-mall will open at 5 a.m. she added.

While Ritter-Martinez said thriftiness may be wearing thin with consumers, some economic factors could still lead shoppers to curb their spending, she added.

The economic instability in Europe, debt-reduction talks in Washington, D.C., and higher gas prices may weigh heavily on shoppers.

“Consumer confidence is still wobbly,” Ritter-Martinez said.

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