Full Stocking of Optimism for Holiday Shopping
The holiday shopping season hits overdrive this week as retailers and bargain seekers gear up for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.
Whether you shop online and never set foot in a store, or throw on your slippers after Thanksgiving dinner for the first spot in line, there will be deals aplenty to help lighten your wallet.
And signs of improvement in consumer confidence are among the reasons that the National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts holiday sales this year will increase 4.1 percent, to $586.1 billion.
"This is the most optimistic forecast NRF has released since the recession," said Matthew Shay, the group's president and CEO. "Overall, we are optimistic that retailers' promotions will hit the right chord with holiday shoppers."
Shop.org expects online sales to grow 12 percent, to as much as $96 billion.
"Online retail has been a bright spot for years, and we don't expect that trend to change anytime soon, especially with the growth in mobile," Shay said. "In addition to enhancing the site experience, retailers have spent the year investing in optimizing their mobile and social platforms, just what holiday shoppers are looking for."
According to an NRF study released last week, 52.8 percent of Americans have already started their holiday shopping, up from 51.4 percent last year.
"It looks like there's plenty of people eager to get their hands on the exclusive promotions we are already seeing," Shay said. "With more promotions to come, gift givers will have ample opportunities this holiday season to seek out the perfect gift - either for themselves or for others."
The holiday shopping season will be 32 days long - the highest number possible - because Thanksgiving falls early this year.
"This means that there will be five full weekends of shopping," said Anthony L. Liuzzo, a business and economics professor at Wilkes University who has been producing a holiday retail sales forecast for more than two decades.
Liuzzo predicts an increase of 3 percent in holiday retail spending, and believes that post-election optimism will be a positive influence.
"There is a certain optimism on the part of voters that carries over into their retail spending habits," he said.
Patrick Coughlin, president and CEO of the Moore County Chamber of Commerce, said local retailers are "cautiously optimistic" in the wake of an election that saw a Democrat retain the White House and a Republican take over the governor's mansion.
"People are feeling a little more relaxed because we have direction in terms of political leadership at the state and national levels," Coughlin said. "Because of that, we can project what some policies might look like at those levels, so businesses can plan appropriately.
"Just having the elections settled allows businesses to have a little more confidence in what they can do."
Coughlin expects Moore County retailers to do better than their counterparts across most of the country.
"We're seeing continued development of the retail sector, which indicates that the economy is continuing to strengthen in Moore County," he said.
The Southern Pines Business Association (SPBA) has allocated its biggest advertising budget in years to promote downtown merchants and holiday events in radio and print ads in Greensboro, Raleigh and Fayetteville.
"We're hoping to draw visitors and tourists from the Triad to South Carolina and boost sales this holiday season," SPBA President Bruce Bishop said. "It's definitely one of the largest expenditures we've ever done to promote Southern Pines."
Downtown Southern Pines will host its first holiday event at 4:30 p.m. Saturday with the annual Christmas tree lighting. The Christmas parade is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Dec. 1, and First Eve is from 5 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 31.
"We hope that these events, in addition to the advertising, will draw a lot of people to Southern Pines," Bishop said. "I would say our merchants are cautiously optimistic about their prospects this holiday season."
Downtown Aberdeen merchants got a jump-start by hosting their annual holiday open house earlier this month.
"People came from all over North Carolina, so there was a lot of hustle and bustle," said Molly Menard, who works at Aberdeen Bead Co. "It was just the beginning of all the fun that will be happening in downtown Aberdeen this holiday season."
The Reindeer Fun Run will be held Saturday, Dec. 1. A tree lighting is scheduled for Dec. 6, and the Christmas parade is at 3 p.m. on Dec. 8.
"The Fun Run is going to be huge," Menard said. "Some of the shops are going to be having specials that day."
Downtown merchants in Pinehurst are trying something new this year - they will be open from noon to 4 p.m. every Sunday before Christmas.
"We have a lot of stuff going on in the village during the holiday season," said Marian Caso, owner of Lady Bedford's Tea Parlour & Gift Shoppe, and president of the Pinehurst Business Guild.
A tree lighting will be held Nov. 30. A twilight lantern parade is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 1, and a Christmas tea on Dec. 2 at the Magnolia Inn and Pine Crest Inn. "Tea" times are 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., the cost is $25 per person, and reservations are required.
In addition, the first weekend in December is being tagged "stocking stuffer weekend" in Pinehurst. The stocking is $10 and participating merchants will stuff it with petite treasures, such as note cards, candles, earrings, socks and ornaments.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
More like this story