Merchants expecting noticeable increase in Christmas shopping

Published 4:43 pm Monday, December 18, 2017

Christmas is six days away, so Beaufort County merchants are awaiting those last-minute Christmas shopping forays that are as traditional as Christmas carols, office Christmas parties and leaving cookies and milk for Santa Claus.

At Russell’s Gentlemen’s Clothing in downtown Washington, owner Russell Smith is anticipating that last-minute rush of shoppers. “I think it was, overall, a little slower getting started, but the last couple of weeks have been really good. It’s steady all day long. Hopefully, people are listening to the shop local thing. I think it’s going to be good. We’ve got a (week) to go, and if it continues as the pace, everything’s going to be good,” Smith said.

Smith said the cold weather reminds folks it’s the Christmas season. “Our business has been good. I can’t complain. We’re doing it,” Smith said.

The cold weather also influences some customers’ purchases, Smith said. “We sell a lot of sweaters, vests, pullovers, pants, shirt-and-tie combinations. I’ve been selling a lot of sport coats this year. That’s been kind of a surprise,” Smith said. “A lot younger guys are wearing sport coats, and that’s something that’s good.”

The women’s section, managed by Rhonda Lyons, also is seeing good Christmas-related business, Smith said. “She does a lot of ladies sportswear. We sell a lot of jewelry in the ladies section, too,” Smith noted.

Overall this Christmas shopping season, Smith said, sportswear is the top seller at his shop.

Leigh Furlough, owner of Blooms women’s apparel at the intersection of Main and Market streets, described her sales this holiday season as “wonderful. “This is our seventh year in business, and every year we see a steady increase,” she said.

Furlough said the closer Christmas gets, the more customers come in her shop. “I think downtown, in general, has seen a mix of both local and out-of-town visitors as well.”

Certain items in her shop are selling well, Furlough noted. “Given this mild weather, a little bit of cold, we’ve done a great outwear and cashmere business this year,” she said.

Furlough expects a rush of shoppers this coming week. “This year, actually is really great for retail because you can another full week right before Christmas, being that Christmas Day is on a Monday. … We, along with some other merchants, are going to be open Sunday, Christmas Eve, as well,” she said.

Sales at Little Shoppes in recent days have been slow, according to Jayne Meisell.

“We compared to last year at this time. It has definitely been slower. A couple of weeks ago it was very busy between Thanksgiving and the first of December. It’s slowed down this last week. We’re really surprised. People have been buying, maybe, small onsie, twosie things, We haven’t seen any real big shopping, which is unusual because December has usually our make-or-break month, has been for the last four years,” she said. “We’ve been talking to other shopkeepers and restaurants, and they’ve been saying the same thing.”

Meisell said Little Shoppes, which normally closes at 6 p.m., is open to 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays during the holiday season. “We’re always open on Sundays,” she said.

Little Shoppes is on West Main Street in downtown Washington.

Retail sales in November increased 0.9 percent over October on a seasonally adjusted basis and were up 6 percent year-over-year unadjusted, according to calculations released last week by the National Retail Federation. Online and other non-store sales grew 10.5 percent year-over-year, reflecting the growth of online shopping. The numbers exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants.

“This has been an impressive start to the holiday season, perhaps the best in the last few years,” said Jack Kleinhenz, NRF’s chief economist. “The combination of job and wage gains, modest inflation and a heathy balance sheet along with elevated consumer confidence has led to solid holiday spending by American households.”


About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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