Shoppers in Jefferson City not deterred

Saturday, November 24, 2001

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Acts of terrorism and a weakening economy were the last things on shoppers' minds Friday as they scoured stores for holiday bargains.

Karen Willmeno, 26, of Jefferson City, said her focus was on shopping despite suggestions that the Sept. 11 attacks would alter the mood of holiday shoppers.

"It's on everyone's minds. How can you not think about it?" she said, slumping tiredly over a cart full of gifts at a Wal-Mart store. "What are you going to do? Stay home and worry about it? Not me."

Willmeno said the sagging economy hasn't hurt her so far, but she remained cautious just the same.

"I'm not going to invest in anything right now," Willmeno said. "And the economy worries me. I'm able to pay my bills and hopefully everybody can, too."

Joe Driskill, director of the Department of Economic Development, said despite slightly higher unemployment, he expected business on Friday to be brisk.

"I think we're willing to go out on the limb and make a prediction that sales will be up from last year, but perhaps not as much as had been predicted earlier this year," Driskill said earlier this week. "People are discounting the luxury kinds of items for those things that are more discount-oriented or seem to be better values."

Guyla Gardner, 46, also of Jefferson City, said she was content to go about her business. With so many people around and stepped-up security at many stores, Gardner said she felt safe.

"You have to just go about your business," Gardner said. "There's no reason to fear that something can happen anywhere, any time."

Traffic in the capital city, which has been the focus of state-funded security at government buildings, was steady throughout the morning. And many stores had lines of people waiting outside in chilly temperatures just for a chance at some of the sales.

Bruce Clemonds, a member of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, said his thoughts were with those who are helping the nation recover from the attacks as he made his way through Wal-Mart with a Santa Claus hat on.

"In terms of a fear factor I didn't have one this morning," Clemonds said. "But one or two members of my family have been hit by the slowdown in the economy. We're keeping that in mind with our spending in case we have to help them out."

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