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Billings shoppers adapt habits ahead of holidays; experts say relief in sight

Posted at 12:09 PM, Dec 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-06 15:16:59-05

BILLINGS — The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is seeming to plateau, at least for the time being, following a report that showed no change in prices from September to October this year. The Federal Reserve, simultaneously, has not raised interest rates since July of this year.

These coinciding factors have many experts speculating about the potential for a "soft landing" for the United States' economy in 2024.

“The economy is doing much better than anybody anticipated … I don’t think we’re gonna have a recession from what everybody says and everybody thought there would be (a recession) six months ago," said Greg Admundson, a professor emeritus with Montana State University (MSU), Billings' college of business.

Despite the potential for an uplifting economic outlook for the upcoming year, many Billings shoppers have said they are already adjusting their holiday shopping plans.

“Instead of things that (my kids) think that they need or things that they want … (I'm getting) things that they need instead," said Autumn Twitchell, a shopper at the Rimrock Mall in Billings.

A "soft economic landing" is generally defined as the Federal Reserve raising interest rates enough to slow spending in an attempt to reduce inflation without signs of a recession. This kind of economic pattern is widely accepted to have only been recorded twice in the United States' history.

“They don’t anticipate a big problem with the economy … however you want to define it, that’s probably what a lot of people would define as a soft landing," said Admundson.

Despite attempts to tame inflation including seven large interest rate hikes in 2022, and four smaller hikes in 2023, some consumers said they are pointing a finger beyond the Federal Reserve for their holiday heartaches.

“If places of employment don’t increase their pay and people are trying to make ends meet, it's kinda hard to feel like you’re preparing for the holidays," said Emily Rettinghouse, a Rimrock Mall shopper.