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Local Retailers Gear Up For Busy Shopping Weekend

By Jenny Callison, posted Nov 25, 2015
Ed Hobson said he is expecting a “very robust” Black Friday and weekend in terms of sales at Learning Express, his Wilmington toy store.
 
“Our trends have been very good, and we’re optimistic at this point the season and the weekend will be very good,” he said this week. “This is a toy season.”
 
Recent retail data support Hobson’s expectations.
 
Holiday shopping should be strong this year, according to recent news releases from two national sources. Both Merchant Cash USA and Wells Fargo Securities reported that retailers expect 2015 holiday sales to exceed those of last year.
 
“The economy continues to be on an upswing, and small business owners are certainly hopeful this will translate into sales this holiday season,” reported Merchant Cash, an organization that helps small and mid-size businesses with cash flow.
 
The organization surveyed nearly 4,000 small business owners nationally to compile its report, and stated, “These businesses expect their holiday sales to spike anywhere from 25-40 percent this November/December as opposed to 2014.” 
 
Wells Fargo Securities – part of Wells Fargo & Co. – is a bit more cautious, predicting a 3.4 percent increase in holiday sales this year.
 
“Economic conditions and consumer confidence continue to improve as we head into the holiday shopping season,” Wells Fargo Securities Economics’ Michael Brown said in a news release from the company. Brown co-authored the company’s report with senior economist Eugenio Aleman. “The National Retail Federation’s holiday spending survey found that the average holiday shopper is expected to spend 0.4 percent more per person than they did last year.”
 
The shopping activity could be even better in the greater Wilmington market, said Mark Vitner, a Charlotte-based senior economist for Wells Fargo. He predicted that local holiday sales would be up 4 to 4.5 percent from last year – a full percentage point higher than his economist colleagues suggested for holiday sales nationally.
 
“There is stronger population, job and income growth” in the Wilmington area than in many other places, Vitner said. “That means more people buying more stuff, even if only a small increase.”
 
Wilmington has more places to shop than it did a few years ago, due in part to retailers following the “tremendous influx” of retirees moving to the area, Vitner said. He added, however, that more people are now shopping online, which “is a big question mark” with regard to its impact on in-store sales.
 
“Weather is the wild card. If the weather is too warm, you’re not going to sell any gloves and other cold-weather clothing items,” he said.
 
The recent frosty mornings have Spectrum Fine Jewelry and Spectrum Gallery owner Star Sosa feeling optimistic. She knows she won’t get a big rush of customers early on Black Friday, but said earlier this week that she is preparing for a healthy volume of sales over the weekend, especially since there has been a frost and people are more apt to be in a holiday mood after a good cold snap.
 
“I have no doorbuster deals and don’t see the need to have them,” she said. “I have done a holiday mailer to about 10,000 homes, and I’m hoping to get some new customers from that.”
 
Sosa will expect to see customers start arriving later on Friday and continuing into Saturday at her companion stores in The Forum shopping center in Wilmington.
 
“They say, ‘We braved the crowds at the big box stores. Now we’re coming to the nice stores to do what’s fun,’” she said.
 
Learning Express and Pomegranate Books, an independent bookstore in Wilmington, are planning special activities the day after Black Friday. They are among local stores celebrating Small Business Saturday, an event created a few years ago by American Express.
 
“What we tend to do is invite a local author to play bookseller for a day and get to know them better,” Pomegranate owner Kathleen Jewell said. Saturday’s special guest is novelist Wiley Cash.
 
“We have a lot of fun with [Small Business Saturday],” she added. “We’ve never had much traffic on Black Friday, so we’re happy to have Saturday.”
 
Learning Express plans “a bunch of product demonstrations and giveaways, supported by vendors,” Hobson said. “We’re going to keep it fun.”

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