Merchants: Shopping season goes well

Published 3:00 am Saturday, December 31, 2011

By Lydia Grimes
news reporter

Consumer confidence rose in November and December with local merchants reaping benefits associated with the rise.
Christmas shopping began early with some Brewton-area residents due to early kickoff events by merchants and retailers have seen an increase in traffic and spending.
Walmart’s manager, Sonya Lim said the store was crowded at times during the holiday season with patient customers and fast-moving assistance.
“We had a good Christmas shopping season and returns have been slow so far,” Lim said. “I think that having lay-a-way has been very good for business this year and I would love to see it continued.”
Downtown merchants were also the benefactors of an increasing holiday shopping crowd this eyar.
Candy Smith, manager of Weaver’s Apparel and Fine Jewelry in downtown Brewton said that they felt like they had a pretty good Christmas.
“It seemed that it got off to a slow start, but in the last couple of weeks before Christmas, shopping began to pick up,” Smith said. “We were very pleased that many people did their shopping here at home in Brewton. Many of our customers have been with us for years and they tend to come back and are very loyal. Long-time customers know they can rely on us and continue to shop here.”
Melanie McGougin, owner and manager of Jus Do, was very happy with sales over the holidays.
“Business was better than last year and it seemed that people began their shopping earlier,” McGougin said. “We started seeing Christmas shoppers at the beginning of November. We have not had a single return and I think that is great. Right now we are packing up some things and we will have a sale on other things a little later.”
The holiday shopping season seemed to be steady for many businesses. Sheri Davenport, owner/manager at Bonehead Boots, said her customer base stayed constant during the season.
“Christmas sales were steady and began earlier in November,” Davenport said. “I remember that we had one customer who shopped in October. Sales were up about 5 percent over last year. Most of the items we have are not seasonal so we don’t have a lot of things to put away. We do have some ornaments that we’re discounting to half-price now.”
The Treasure Chest, in downtown Brewton, said several new customers were seen in the store — possibly a sign more shoppers were staying local for the holiday shopping season.
Carol Fountain, a member of the staff at The Treasure Chest, said they actually had customers who said they didn’t know the store was there.
“Now that they have come in and seen what we offer, we hope they remember to come back, ” Fountain said. “Business was pretty good and the shoppers started earlier this year. Many of them did their shopping back in November. We sold a lot of jewelry this year and did a lot of gift wrapping.”
According to a the monthly Consumer Confidence Survey conducted by The Conference Board, consumers’ assessment of current conditions improved in December. Those stating business conditions are “good” increased to 16.6 percent from 13.9 percent, while those stating business conditions are “bad” declined to 33.9 percent from 38.0 percent. Consumers’ assessment of the job market was also more positive. Those claiming jobs are “plentiful” increased to 6.7 percent from 5.6 percent, while those claiming jobs are “hard to get” decreased to 41.8 percent from 43.0 percent.
Consumers’ short-term outlook also improved in December. The proportion of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months increased to 16.7 percent from 13.7 percent, while those expecting business conditions will worsen declined to 13.4 percent from 16.1 percent.
Consumers’ outlook for the job market was also more favorable.  Those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead increased to 13.3 percent from 12.4 percent, while those anticipating fewer jobs declined to 20.2 percent from 23.8 percent. The proportion of consumers expecting an increase in their incomes improved to 17.1 percent from 14.1 percen