Retailers aren't feeling much of the sales boost politicians promised once consumers received their federal economic stimulus checks, according to a national survey of retailers.
Officials with the International Council of Shopping Centers, a Washington, D.C.-based industry association, said even though two-thirds of Americans have their checks "their willingness to spend their money remains measured and modest."
"It hasn't made a major impact in the retail industry due to gasoline prices and just the uncertainty in the economy," said Erin Hershkowitz, an ICSC spokeswoman.
Chain-store sales decreased by 0.6 percent last week from the prior week, while year-over-year sales rose by 2.2 percent, officials said. Same-store sales should rise between 2 percent to 3 percent this month.
The rebate program, intended as a sort of shock therapy to the ailing economy, was passed by Congress and put into effect by President Bush in February. Married couples are receiving $1,200, while single tax filers are getting $600. The Internal Revenue Service plans to mail the remaining checks by July 11.
The council's findings were no surprise to Earl de Berge, director for the Behavior Research Center, which tracks consumer confidence in the Arizona.
"The probability that people ... ran out and spent it to help the economy - that's almost laughable," de Berge said.
That's because Arizona residents' confidence in the economy is at one of the lowest levels he's ever seen, he said.
"I don't think the checks are big enough to make that big of a dent. Secondly, I think they're going to go for basics, or they're going to be putting it in a sock," he said.
An analysis by the Arizona Public Interest Research Group, an organization promoting mass transit and other issues, said any cash infusion the stimulus checks provided to the average Arizona household has already been eaten up by soaring gasoline prices.
"The stimulus check that was really designed to be put into local goods and services has really gone into people's gas tanks because of the rise of gasoline," said Diane Brown, executive director of the group.
The group is using the issue to push for mass transit.
Joe Bruno, an assistant manager at The Disney Store in Arizona Mills mall in Tempe, doesn't need a bunch of charts and graphs to know the rebates haven't done anything for his sales.
"I wouldn't say there's been a jump because of the stimulus package at all," he said. "Everyone wants to use that money to save and not necessarily spend."