Local retailers ask shoppers to stay close to home

Published 2:24 pm Sunday, November 26, 2017


Lines of eager shoppers wrap around the side of a store building. Inside, employees brace for an onslaught of customers needing assistance. Large chains keep lights on later than usual — some into the early hours of the morning.

You guessed it. It’s Black Friday.

Although Beaufort County doesn’t see the same volume of the Greenville area, shops are noticeably busier during Thanksgiving weekend, which extends from Black Friday into Shop Small Saturday, Sunday and finally Cyber Monday.

Last year, more than 154 million shoppers in the United States braved the crowds, an increase from 2015’s 151 million people, according to the National Retail Federation.

Of the participating stores in 2016, more than half were department stores, followed by discount stores at 34 percent. Local, small businesses comprised just under 12 percent of the participating stores, according to NRF.

Beaufort County businesses continue to push for customers to shop local this season, and some are seeing it starting to pay off.

“It was like crazy busy. Black Friday was real good. It was a little late getting started. It started about mid-morning, which it usually does. I guess people are winding up,” said Russell Smith, owner of Russell’s in downtown Washington. “About 10:30 to 11 o’clock it got pretty busy. There was a lot of people down here, a lot of people from out of town here shopping.”

Smith said he had several customers from out of town — mostly those who have vacation homes on the river and were visiting for the holidays. Customers came from around eastern North Carolina, but also as far away as Connecticut, he added.

“Our Black Friday this year was probably a little bit better than last year. Not by a wide margin, but I would say it was better than last year,” Smith said. “Everything cooperated (Friday). The weather was nice; everything just kind of fell into place for it to be a good day yesterday.”

Smith said downtown merchants work hard to get the “shop local” message across to potential buyers, and that work shows in more customers making an effort to shop at home.

“I think the message has gotten out. I think people are trying, you know, to do more at home,” Smith said. “It means a tremendous amount to us for people to shop at home. It’s a really big deal, I’m telling you, to shop at home. It makes a big difference. It keeps us here.”