By David A. Farrell, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
While all the publicity is sometimes captured by the big box stores, which this year began their Christmas sales on Thanksgiving Day, actually competing with the traditional Thanksgiving family meal and get-together, small stores, which form the backbone of small-to-medium-sized city economies throughout Mississippi, just keep chugging along, each doing what it does best, particularly with specialty items. They form a niche.
Melinda Shaw, proprietor of MeLinda’s, a traditional gift shop that offers a wide range of gifts for home and garden, says from the looks of Friday morning traffic in her two stores, the traditional Black Friday, she hopes to do better than last year, although it might be “just a little better.”
One of Shaw’s stores is in the Top-O-The-Hill shopping center at Interstate 59’s Exit 6 and her original store is at 109 West Canal Street. Shaw opened an hour earlier than usual for Black Friday.
“Based on what we have done so far, I would say that we will do about the same as last year, maybe a little bit better. Last year was a blessing, so we will take that, and any gains we might get this year,” said Shaw.
Picayune officials were hoping that an eight percent jump in city sales tax rebates from the state for the month of September, the last month for which figures are available and which was unexpected, might forecast a better than usual Christmas shopping season here. The tax rebates showed that retail sales here in September were eight percent above the same time last year.
On Dec. 9, Shaw will celebrate 15 years of doing business in Picayune.
Lynne Barze’, owner of Barze’ Place, 213 US highway 11 South, says she, too, thinks business seems a “little bit” better than last year. “We always have a steady flow of traffic here, but it seems to have picked up,” she said on Friday.
She describes her small business as an antique and collectibles mall. She has 6,000 square feet, 28 dealers and consignors and 73 spaces rented out.
“I love Picayune and its people. I have been in business here eight years, and the people have been good to me,” said Barze’.
She said she has plenty of small, unique gifts that would fit well with the Christmas gift needs of “just about anyone.”
However, she did have one beef she wanted to get off her chest, she said.
“We did not this year, and have not in the past, promoted ‘Small Business Saturday,’ which is Saturday, Nov. 24, here among our small businesses. This is the third year in a row that it has been held, and there has not been any local promotion conducted in connection with it, and it could be a big deal if we pushed it. It’s very popular in some other places, and helps promote shopping at small, local shops, which are really the backbone of our economy.”
Heather Bozant, owner of the “WeDat Locker Room,” 2322 Mississippi Highway 43 South, Suite. B, next to Kellie’s Poor Boy Express, says that the Saints having a bad season has affected her business some, but otherwise, she, too, is expecting a little better sales this year than last.
She touts her store as having the largest selection of Saints apparel, name brand denim and shoes in Pearl River County. She said Black Friday got off to a great start. “Lines had already formed outside the door, waiting to get in,” she said. “We also have a women’s boutique section that has done well.
“Business has been great today (Black Friday). We have been doing giveaways hourly, and we had a large crowd outside the door when we opened this morning,” she said.
Small merchants have been looking for ways to attract the harried, hectic shoppers away from the gigantic sales promotions by the big chain stores, hoping to boost their bottom lines. “Small Business Saturday” promotions nationwide, backed by some credit card companies, is helping in some locations.
Nationally, The Associated Press reported that stores typically open in the wee hours of the morning on the day after Thanksgiving, a day known as Black Friday because that’s when stores traditionally turn a profit for the year.
However, Black Friday openings have crept up earlier and earlier over the past few years.
Some experts who watch the retail markets say the Thanksgiving Day openings and promotions were generated by the brick-and-mortar stores’ efforts to compete with on-line Thanksgiving Day sales, which were cutting into their annual Black Friday promotions.
Now, many stores open their doors Thanksgiving evening, hoping Americans will be willing to shop soon after they finish their pumpkin pie. But the small business, locally owned, independents are trying new ideas, too, to attract shoppers to Thanksgiving weekend-long promotions.
(Associated Press dispatches were used in compilation of this report.)