Shining a light on you
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Suburban residents looking to add an extra strand of Christmas lights to the tree or replace burned out icicles hanging from the roof may be out of luck.
Retailers are finding that shelves with holiday lights are dim this season.
Increased demand, lower inventories, the economy and even the weather are playing roles in a shortage of holiday lights at discount, hardware and home improvement stores across the country.
"We have limited availability of Christmas lights," Target spokeswoman Michaela Gleason said. "Some stores are sold out while others have low supplies."
Home Depot stores also are experiencing shortages.
"It seems people want to get out there and be festive and decorate for the holidays," said Home Depot spokeswoman Jen King. The popularity of the LED lights also have prompted additional interest in holiday decorating.
Most stores have certain lights in stock, but are low in some areas.
Net lights placed on shrubs and icicle lights are tough to find at many stores, including Ace Hardware in Libertyville.
"We've obtained as many as we can get," said Ace manager Paul LaRoche. He drove to downstate Princeton, where he was able to replenish his stock of single-strand lights.
Buikema's Ace Hardware in Naperville also is experiencing a shortage of the tiny holiday lights. Manager Dave Paxton believes a warm November has prompted more people to decorate, creating higher demand than usual.
"This has been the best year for outdoor decorating," LaRoche agreed.
Retail experts believe the shortage may go beyond the weather. The bright lights may be helping people get in the holiday spirit at a time when they have to cut purchases in a weak economy.
"People are cutting back on Christmas gifts and instead are increasing their spending to decorate their homes," said George Rosenbaum, analyst of Chicago-based retail research firm Leo J. Shapiro and Associates.
In addition, many retailers saw weak sales last season and may have trimmed the light supply.
"Retailers are very cautious on inventory in all areas," Rosenbaum said.
"We were selective on what we ordered," Paxton said, adding that orders were placed six to eight months ago.
Various Wal-Mart stores throughout the area are also seeing low supplies on the lights. Managers at the Round Lake Beach location said they did not realize demand would be so high this year.