"I wish I knew," said Berneice Morris at Fashion Crossroads.
Morris's sentiment was generally shared. Most merchants admitted they hardly knew what items would bring shoppers in with certainty. Morris said she knew shoppers "always like a sale."
Neil Ramsey, the administrative manager at Lowe's, said shoppers are "looking for a bargain."
Ramsey had every employee on the Lowe's payroll working in the store on Friday, and the store was full of customers. Staff handed out an advertising flier at the door, including a store map. The first two weeks of last year's Christmas season had been the best the Monett Lowe's had seen. Ramsey expected to see a repeat performance this year.
Agnes Bruner at Bruner Pharmacy and Hallmark Store said holiday shopping seemed to start slowly this year with little before Thanksgiving. Other merchants agreed.
Mitzi Doss at Mitzi's Gifts and Decor said shoppers generally did not seem to be spending as much this year. John Bruner at Bruner's Pharmacy said he felt the Midwest was lagging behind the East and West Coasts in riding an economic recovery.
"I think we're at the peak of the bottom," Bruner said. "I'm optimistic for next year. This year we have to hang on."
Merchants have nonetheless geared up for the season. At Aaron's, General Manager Chadd Baxter anticipates continued strong demand for electronics.
"We've got it all and it's in stock all the time," Baxter said.
Steve Kelley at Westco said recliners and bedding have remained especially strong sellers for Westco. Kelley said he sees his strongest sales in the last two weeks before Christmas.
One shopping pattern Kelley said he has seen more often is couples foregoing the surprise of gift giving and shopping together for items they need. Purchases have also been more practical, Kelley said.
John Bruner observed Hallmark had retooled its gift line to offer a number of new products, freshening the shopping experience. Agnes Bruner said family activities like games and puzzles have seen a boost in popularity.
Doss said her store is well stocked in snowmen and candles, a steady holiday decorating item in her line.
Mike Brownsberger, at Brownsberger's clothing store, said he has seen more women shopping for accessories, like jewelry, scarves or handbags, to perhaps put a new twist on an old outfit. Men often shop to replace basics, Brownsberger said.
One trend he has seen increasing is an interest in accenting men's outerwear with a vest. Brownsberger has his store stocked for the season but does not worry about holiday sales. He said spring and summer business in clothing now equals fall and winter sales, making Christmas a less important part of the sales equation.
For Morris, Fashion Crossroads would continue the traditional emphasis on service to keep customers happy. Her exchange policy would remain available for customers to find the right gift.
"A lot of shoppers went out of town right after Thanksgiving," Morris said. "We're hoping this week they will be ready to shop locally."