Retailers Stay Optimistic About Holidays
Local retailers are bracing for the holiday shopping rush despite this year's unprecedented economic woes.
The shopping season officially kicks off today, known as "Black Friday," when stores open at extremely early hours and offer some of the best deals of the year to attract shoppers. With consumer confidence at a low point, there are fears that retail sales could struggle.
But the owners and managers of Moore County stores are confident that their promotions can attract shoppers looking for bargains on gifts.
Goody's Family Clothing in Pinecrest Plaza in Southern Pines opened at 4 a.m. today with a litany of sales and offers.
"We've got all kinds of special deals," Store Manager Tom Lupei said. "We have some really super buys."
His store was also open Thanksgiving Day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will also be open Saturday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. More than 100 door busters are offered up until 1 p.m. today, including a digital video camera for just $39.95.
"I feel like I'm gonna have a really good sales gain," he said. "Prices will be really good for the consumers."
Lupei admitted that sales have been slowed by the poor national economy, but he thinks customers will be out in droves to take advantage of the holiday deals.
"I think business in general has slowed down, but I think people are waiting for the holiday markdowns," he said.
Lupei said his store will follow the basic weekly sales trend that it usually does. He does think that there will a rush of last-minute shoppers as Christmas approaches.
"The closer we get, the harder selling," he said.
Belk, Goody's Pinecrest Plaza neighbor, could also benefit from an aggressive promotional campaign.
Gordon Willis, manager of Belk in Southern Pines, told The Pilot that he expected a big day today and strong sales throughout the holiday season. He said he has been encouraged by the strong sales over the course of the past 10 days.
"We're positive," he said, referring to Black Friday. "I think it's going to be good. We've done a lot to make that an outstanding day."
Willis is also optimistic about the deals his store will be offering this season, which he believes will boost sales. He has already hired additional seasonal staff to accommodate the influx of customers.
"We've got the buys to have a strong Christmas," he said.
Willis said he is always concerned about the economy, which is why his store "takes it day by day." He added that he and his staff simply focus on how to make their store the best it can be.
"We're going to do our best we can do in our store," he said.
Denker Dry Goods in downtown Southern Pines, which specializes in women's clothing, jewelry and gifts, is a popular spot year-round. Owner Kara Denker Hodges said the Christmas rush should be no exception, even with the tough economy.
"Sales are similar to what they were last year," she said. "We haven't really seen a downturn because of the economy."
Hodges said Citizens of Humanity jeans, Ed Hardy T-shirts, scarfs, handbags, and suits have been flying off the shelf. Sales are boosted through the store's different promotions run throughout the year.
"We run different sales randomly," she said. "We're always running a promotion of sorts."
Hodges said that typically she sees shoppers after the Christmas holiday, but that depends on which day Christmas falls on. If it's close to the weekend, like this year, visitors who are still in town will usually drop by the store.
"We still get a great amount of people after Christmas," she said.
Chris Dalrymple owns Gentlemen's Corner in downtown Pinehurst, which sells high-end men's apparel. He said he has noticed his customers are in search of "more practical things" instead of the more expensive items, such as khaki pants and cashmere sweaters.
"People want quality, but they're looking for a price-value correlation," he said.
Dalrymple anticipates a "big push" near Christmas since shoppers will have to buy gifts despite the economy. He thinks his store has an advantage because of its location and personal service.
"People don't have to fight the malls [here]," he said.
Electronics and jewelry are among the most prevalent "big-ticket" items given as Christmas gifts. Despite the costs, retailers say there is still a demand for these items.
Jim Austin, general manager of Best Buy in Aberdeen, said he hasn't seen a big upswing in the volume of shoppers just yet, but he expects that to change soon.
"We're hoping it's going to pick up any day," he said last week. "Thanksgiving week is always a big week."
Best Buy is the largest specialty retailer of consumer electronics in the country. Austin expects automobile GPS devices, Apple iPod music players, and flat-panel, high-definition televisions to be the most popular items this year. He said sales generally stay steady through the end of January, especially for television sets because of the Super Bowl being played in early February.
"TVs sell through the Super Bowl," he said.
Richard Shearer, who co-owns Jewels of Pinehurst with his wife, Patricia Reil, said experience makes a big difference in a tough market. He and Reil have been in the business for more than three decades and have forged strong relationships with their customers and throughout the industry.
"After 32 years, you get really lucky," he said. "We're blessed. We have the right clients and are located in the right area."
Being an independent jewelry store that specializes in handmade, custom products, Shearer said Jewels of Pinehurst has created a niche for itself. It has the versatility of being a "mom-and-pop" type store with an inventory deeper than most. Jewels of Pinehurst is one of about 1,000 dealers that offer the "Hearts on Fire" line of diamonds that Shearer calls the finest in the world.
Shearer said it's hard to predict how the Christmas shopping season will go, but he knows there is a demand for jewelry.
"People are still going to be giving gifts," he said. "We're the dream makers."
Shearer said that in the difficult economic climate, he and his wife have "gotten a little more creative" with their designs. They enjoy making their customers a part of the process, part of the reason Jewels of Pinehurst has won three "Best of Moore" awards in a row. He said they can use their industry connections to turn almost any idea into a reality.
"We can meet anybody's needs," he said. "We're fortunate that we've positioned ourselves and are able to offer designer-crafted, custom jewelry. We cut and polish our service to perfection every day."
Patrick Coughlin, president and CEO of the Moore County Chamber of Commerce, said he hasn't heard much from local retailers aside from some apprehension because of the uncertainty about the current economic situation. He also said it's difficult to predict how things will go ahead of time, but his organization is trying to encourage residents to shop locally in spite of the pervasive confidence issues consumers are facing.
"We don't have a crystal ball, but we're trying to be proactive in supporting our local businesses," he said. "We're trying to encourage people to buy whatever they can locally. No matter how small the purchase, it could have a significant impact.
"Let's have a concerted effort to make sure these purchases are made in Moore County."
Contact John Krahnert III at 693-2473 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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