In an era when there's less to spend, some shoppers may be turning to non-traditional places like thrift stores to find Christmas gifts for their loved ones.
Cathy Miller of Good Samaritan Association said she knows of some people who buy gifts through the organization's thrift store on East Highland Avenue, but isn't sure about trends because not everyone talks about why they're buying what.
"A lot of times, they do not tell us," she said.
She said she knows of some people who come in during discount "bag days" and buy items, not as specific gifts, but simply to pass out in their neighborhoods.
There has definitely been an increase in the number of people seeking assistance buying clothes for themselves or their families, coming to the Good Samaritan offices and being given vouchers to spend on clothing at the thrift store.
Jamie Berry, a spokeswoman for Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee, said Goodwill stores like the one in Big Springs Shopping Center "always do well" regardless of the season.
But she said Goodwill has seen a definite uptick in gift card sales, although it's hard to quantify because the store also issues gift cards for returns.
"Gift cards are doing great these days," said Berry.
She said Goodwill will be opening a new store elsewhere in Middle Tennessee on Dec. 20, and expects it will do some business with last-minute Christmas shoppers. Goodwill always sees an uptick in sales in the fourth quarter, some of it perhaps attributable to gift sales but some of it attributable to people looking for winter coats or items for Christmas decorating.
Steve Mills, a Times-Gazette blogger and an expert on use of the online sales site eBay, said shoppers are looking to eBay not so much for bargains as for convenience.
"More folks are having to pay taxes and even though things are touted as being 'free shipping' it is added into the price," said Mills. "But they do not seem to mind."
He said eBay's sales don't seem to be as bargain-centric this year as in the past.
The Arizona Daily Star reported recently that resale businesses like thrift stores and consignment shops have grown during the bad economy and are "one of the fastest-growing segments of retail."