Local merchants ready for busy Christmas season

Published 1:09 am Sunday, November 2, 2008

NATCHEZ — Though the calendar said it was Halloween, there was Christmas music playing inside Just 4 You Monograms and Gifts.

Store owner, Susan Smith said her shop has been decked out for Christmas since the last week in September.

“It takes about two weeks to get everything set up,” she said. “We really turn the store upside down.”

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Smith said most of her customers enjoy coming in for Christmas items no matter the date on the calendar.

“I think most people look forward to what we do every year. We always try to have something wild and unique,” Smith said. “There are some people though who aren’t ready to think that Christmas is just around the corner.”

And they aren’t just looking this early either. Smith said she has had plenty of Christmas merchandise leaving the store.

“(Customers) were buying it out of the boxes before we could get it put out,” she said.

The atmosphere is just as festive at Moreton’s Flowerland in downtown Natchez.

Brenda Zerby, who owns the store with her husband Blair, said the process of transforming the store into a winter wonderland is daunting.

“We have to work late into the night because we have the flower shop to run during the day,” Zerby said.

At her store, the set up takes a two to three weeks, but the planning begins long before that.

“It starts as early as January when we go to market and see what the trend is going to be,” Zerby said. “When boxes start arriving at the end of the summer it is fun because Christmas really is a magical time.”

Zerby and her staff “of little elves” have fully assembled only one portion of the store’s Christmas display, — a cowboy Christmas corral — but more is on the way.

“People really look forward to our windows,” Zerby said. “My husband always does something spectacular. He has a great imagination.”

Since Moreton’s first opened its doors 35 years ago, Zerby has seen Christmas start earlier and earlier.

“The first open house at Moreton’s was the weekend after Thanksgiving,” Zerby said. “Maybe if we lived in our own small town world, we could still do that.

“But the national retailers and discounters start stocking Christmas merchandise as early as August or September. We are almost forced to have it too.”

Though the store takes on a green and red décor this time of the year, Zerby said she never forgets about Thanksgiving.

“We always have a corner of the store that is dedicated to the season at hand,” she said. “It is important not to forget about Thanksgiving because it is a family holiday.”

Smith said the abundance of Christmas décor in her store just makes good economic sense.

“We don’t do as much fall and Thanksgiving and Halloween business as we do Christmas,” she said.

She said it also give people more time to space out their purchases.

“If there is a lot that you want to buy, you can get some this week and come back next week for some more,” Smith said.

Zerby said she isn’t too concerned about the state of the economy when it comes to her store at Christmas.

“People are still going to buy presents,” Zerby said. “They may not be as big, but it really isn’t the size of the present that matters.”