More Alaskans hanging on to PFD money

Posted: Sunday, October 20, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Sales of big-ticket items are slightly slower this year as many Alaskans appear to be hanging on to their Permanent Fund dividend checks longer.

Anchorage-area bankers say they are not seeing customers draw down their accounts as quickly after dividends were deposited this year on Oct. 9.

''In years past, 20 to 25 percent of that would leave the bank within the first week. Another 10 percent would leave within the next 10 days to two weeks,'' Jason Roth of First National Bank Alaska told the Anchorage Daily News. ''But this year our deposits haven't decreased at all.''

The annual dividend payout boosts the Alaska economy every October, and almost every business seems to benefit. This fall's $911 million, or $1,540 per eligible Alaskan, is roughly 5 percent of the state's entire personal income for this year.

Wells Fargo Bank Alaska spokeswoman Elaine Junge noticed a difference this year as well.

''It's nothing like the runoff we've seen in previous years,'' she said.

Nancy Usera of Alaska USA Federal Credit Union said about $215 million in dividends deposited into customer accounts ''really seem to be sticking.''

Her institution's members withdrew several million dollars less in the first week of dividends than they did in that same period last year, she said.

Retailers said Friday consumers were turning their dividends into cars, refrigerators, computers and other goodies, but some noted sales were a little softer than expected.

So if Alaskans are hanging on to their dividends rather than spending them, the implications for the economy are sobering.

Chuck Hoskins, sales manager for Eero Volkswagen of Anchorage Inc., said that although ''business is good this month, we're not seeing as many deals where dividends are used as down payments.'' He's also not seeing as many buyers using their dividends to buy a used vehicle for $3,000 to $6,000 cash.

Rod Udd of Anchorage Chrysler Dodge Center also said sales were just a little below expectations. Unlike last year, the dealer had cars on display in the Northway and Anchorage Fifth Avenue malls. ''It would have been worse if we had not been as aggressive as we were.''

Ron Harries, general manager of the Midtown Sears store, said that in general sales are a little slow, with refrigerators and cooking devices down somewhat, but tools, snowblowers, washing machines and some electronics are up.

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