FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS — Maybe it was the winter storm that never came or that Wednesday was a back-to-work day for metro-east residents.
Whatever the reason, shoppers said the day-after Christmas crowds were smaller than usual at St. Clair Square in Fairview Heights.
Salem resident Marla Tolliver figured that local consumers thought the forecasted winter storm that ended up missing the metro-east would create a travel hazard.
"Once you get east of Carlyle, the weather is horrible," Tolliver said. "So we decided to come here."
Tolliver has shopped at the metro-east mall on the day after Christmas for a number of years and said she is used to having more shoppers to deal with.
"It's usually always packed and you're waiting in line," she said. "Today, it hasn't been that way so far. It's surprising, but good for me."
Granite City resident Kelly Shepard also was at the mall Wednesday morning and was surprised at the sparse turnout.
"It's not busy at all," Shepard said. "I thought it was going to be really crowded."
Nationwide, sales numbers leading up to Christmas Day fell short of retailers' projections. According to the MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse report released Tuesday, sales of electronics, clothing, jewelry and home goods in the two months before Christmas increased by only 0.7 percent compared with last year -- far below the 3 percent to 4 percent increase anticipated this year. Analysts pointed to recent severe winter weather, ongoing uncertainty about the economy with potential tax hikes and spending cuts looming and the recent school shooting in Newtown, Conn., had each thwarted shoppers' enthusiasm this year.
But Shiloh residents Jeremy and Lacey Bochantin said they appreciated the short lines.
"Last year, we snaked through the lines to check out," Jeremy said. "This year, we walked right up."
The small shopper turnout was not limited to the mall.
"We've noticed that all over," Lacey said.
"It's been nice," said Jeremy.
Contact reporter Will Buss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2526.