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Red & GREEN: Local retailers need more than cheer for happy season

LAUREN WOOD/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Darby’s employee Joey Gunning strands lights through garland Friday afternoon while working on decorating the exterior of store for the upcoming holiday shopping season.


NATCHEZ — The only thing local retailers have asked Santa for this year is you.

With five days until the official start of the holiday shopping season, big and small retail businesses in the Miss-Lou said they don’t need a reminder that a good holiday season is critical to having a good sales year, but they don’t mind mentioning that fact to the local shoppers.

Darby’s Everything Under the Sun owner Darby Short said fourth-quarter sales are “make or break” for her shop’s year.

“It’s really what fuels us through the next year and fuels us through the slow times in the summer,” she said.

A good holiday season, Short said, also ensures that all of her full-time employees have jobs through the slow part of the year.

Short said the store has hired part-time employees to help the store through the holidays and is bringing in a tremendous amount of stock.

“We had a good season last year, and it looks like we’re having a good year this year,” she said.

Southern Flair Candles owner Jesse Whitehead in Vidalia said his store also depends heavily on the holiday shopping season.

“The holiday (shopping season) can make us or break us,” Whitehead said. “It’s just like any other retail business in the area.

“We’re currently putting our Christmas inventory out,” he said. “We have been preparing by adding more items to our inventory and trying to stock more of everything we have.”

Boutique Unique owner LaShay Parker said the holiday shopping season in her store — and that of many other business owners — directly effects the cheer found under her family’s tree.

“Most of my business is during this time of year,” Parker said. “A good holiday season for me means a good Christmas for my children.”

Parker said she was a big supporter of Small Business Saturday, which is the Saturday after Black Friday.

“I’m expecting it to be busier than last year,” Parker said. “I’ve been trying to bring in more unique items and increase my inventory.”

Parker puts off decorating until the week of Thanksgiving.

“I like to keep my holidays separate,” Parker said. “I’ll start getting my store ready (this) week.”

The Pampered Sole Manager Karen Smith said last year’s holiday sales were down a bit, and she said she is hoping they pick back up this year.

The holidays are always a big deal for retailers, she said, but Mardi Gras gown sales is the biggest time of the year for The Pampered Sole.

Smith said the store stays busy mostly throughout the school year.

“And the holidays are very important to that,” she said.

Shirley Cliburn, owner of The Gift Box in Ferriday, begins preparing for the holiday shopping season in January.

“We kick off our holiday season every year on the last weekend of October,” she said.

Business has already picked up at The Gift Box. Cliburn said she has already noticed a boost in her sales.

“I think people are shopping earlier and are less frugal than they have been in the past few years,” Cliburn said. “The month of October was the best I’ve had since 2008.”

The last quarter of the year, Cliburn said is where her store does the most of its business.

“We do more in the last quarter than we do all year long,” she said. “It carries you. A bad season can put you in a bind for the rest of the year.”

Natchez Mall Manager Marie Lofton said mall traffic will stay steady through the holidays and the get “crazy” the week before Christmas.

“I think this year will be better than last year, she said.

Lofton said residents shopping local is the key to Miss-Lou retailers have a good holiday shopping season.

“We want all our merchants to do well, so it’s so very important to shop local,” she said.