Now that Americans’ collective Thanksgiving Day indulgence has been reduced to delicious leftovers, consumers have come out of their turkey-induced stupor and are ready to hunt for holiday sales.
According to a preliminary Thanksgiving weekend shopping survey conducted by the National Retail Foundation, up to 140 million people said they intended to shop on Thanksgiving and this weekend. This projected number is a decrease from the 147 million shoppers who had planned to shop right after Thanksgiving last year, according to a foundation news release.
According to the NRF survey, 97 million people intended to shop on Black Friday.
In addition, 61 million Americans said they would shop on Saturday and 34 million said they intended to shop on Sunday.
“The National Retail Foundation predicts the average American shopper will spend $737.95 this Christmas, which translates to total forecasted holiday sales of $602.1 billion nationwide during the 2013 holiday shopping season,” said Vicki Davis, Hinesville Downtown Development Authority executive director.
The HDDA and downtown partners are encouraging area residents to consider spending their dollars, or at least a portion of their holiday budget, locally rather than online or traveling to the malls and big-box stores in surrounding communities, Davis said.
“If each person were to spend just 20 percent of their holiday spending at locally owned and operated shops, which according to the NRF numbers would equal $147.59, on average, each person would make an investment of $66.42 of their hard-earned money in their own community,” she said.
Gibson’s Home Store, a Hinesville staple since 1978, has two locations on Highway 84, one in Hinesville and one in Flemington. Gibson’s sells furniture and mattresses. The store opened at 8 a.m. on Black Friday.
“I got here this morning at 7 o’clock and I had customers pull in the parking lot at 7:40 a.m.,” store manager Cathy Snow said Friday.
She said business was brisk all that morning. She attributed a good part of their sales to staff calling customers to let them know about the sales offered after Thanksgiving. Many military families had Friday off, as well, the store manager said.
“We have a lot of comparison shoppers that come back here to us,” Snow said. “That makes us very pleased. We don’t mark (merchandise) up, to mark down.”
Davis and Leah Poole, Liberty County Chamber of Commerce CEO, say there are a myriad of reasons to shop local.
“A marketplace of small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term,” Poole said. “A multitude of small businesses, each selecting products based not on national sales plan but on their own interests and the needs of their local customers, guarantees a much broader range of product choices.”
Research shows that entrepreneurs and skilled workers are more likely to invest and settle in communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character, Poole added.
“It also helps keep our community unique,” she said. “Our one-of-a-kind businesses are an integral part of our county’s distinctive character. Our tourism businesses also benefit.”
Although a majority of shoppers travel to nearby Savannah or Brunswick, Hinesville retailers also have much to offer, Davis said.
“There are many people who find everything they need right here in town and welcome the convenience of shopping at home instead of adding an extra hour to the commute, long lines in traffic and then longer lines in the stores,” she said. “Additionally, many who choose to spend their Friday shopping in places around the region, will either begin or end their weekend shopping locally to take advantage of the local deals without having to spend the extra time and cost to travel out of town.”
In addition to Wal-Mart, Hinesville’s large retailers include Lowe’s, Sears, Goody’s, Big Lots, US Patriot, Pro Feet, VIP Office Furniture and Supply, Bealls, PetSense, Hinesville Pharmacy and Thomas Hill Jewelers. Davis said military families can also find bargains at the Post Exchange on Fort Stewart.
Davis said Liberty County shoppers should not be quick to dismiss small businesses run by their neighbors.
“While local mom and pops shops cannot compete with the big box retailers who take a loss on many of their door buster items as a means to lure customers into their businesses, they do have something special to offer that the larger boxes cannot: friendly customer service, unique and customized gifts, locally produced items, and the satisfaction of supporting the local economy,” she said.
Davis said businesses in downtown Hinesville will conduct a series of promotions on Saturdays, Dec. 7, 14 and 21. This campaign to bring shoppers into downtown will offer deals and specials, along with holiday cheer, she said.
Davis said 12 downtown businesses also have teamed up for “Fall into the Holiday” promotions, which run through Dec. 14. Customers can pick up a “shopping passport” at any of the participants for a chance to win one of five gift bags with gift certificates and vouchers for each of the businesses, valued at more than $150 each.
“These efforts are aimed at reminding shoppers of the positive economic, community and environmental impacts they can have if they choose to fill their holiday wish lists with purchases from neighborhood businesses,” Davis said.
The HDDA executive director said shopping local also helps communities.
“Dollars spent locally support businesses that are owned and operated by people who live here and have made an investment in the community,” Davis said. “These businesses support local schools, organizations and charities through generous giving and volunteer support.”
A study conducted by the American Independent Business Alliance shows that local businesses tend to purchase goods and services from other local businesses, according to Davis.
“More specifically, it is estimated that for every $1 spent at a locally-owned business, 45 cents is reinvested locally, which produces big dividends for the local economy not to mention increases in local sales tax revenue which supports vital community services and infrastructure,” she said. “By contrast, only 15 cents of every $1 spent at a corporate chain store is reinvested in the local economy.”
The U.S. Small Business Administration has found that small businesses provide 55 percent of all jobs, Davis added.