Season’s sales account for much of year

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 21, 2010

NATCHEZ — When the doors to local stores open Friday, the City of Natchez will be well on its way to earning nearly 20 percent of the sales tax dollars it can expect to earn this fiscal year.

In the Christmas shopping season, which will begin before sunrise Friday and continue until January, the city will likely earn a bit more than $900,000 in sales tax revenues, based on statistics from recent years.

But just five years ago that number was closer to a million. Whether due to economic changes, a population decrease or simply more out-of-town shopping, the total sales tax collected in November and December was down last year.

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The Christmas season tax collection average from fiscal year 2005-2006 to 2008-2009 was $963,554; last year the city collected $905,521.

The city collected $5 million in sales tax revenues in the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

Mayor Jake Middleton is one of the first local residents to promote the benefits of shopping at home — for you and for your town.

“Everywhere you look, there’s a good selection and no reason not to stay home (in Natchez) and shop,” Middleton said.

“Residents need to get out and support local businesses.”

In addition to creating sales tax dollars that pay for road maintenance, police and fire protection and local schools, every dollar spent locally typically turns over several more times, keeping the Miss-Lou economic engine churning, economic experts say.

And for local businesses, Friday is an important day.

“(Black) Friday is a really good shopping day,” Sun, Moon and Stars owner Erin Meyers said. “I would say we get three to four times as many customers, maybe even more than that.”

Meyers said Black Friday gives her business a peek at what the rest of the holiday shopping season is going to be like.

“If that day is good, then generally the whole season will be good,” she said. “I would say it is probably the busiest time throughout the whole year.”

Stage manager Blaine Davis said he is optimistic about the busiest time of the year for his store.

“We are looking for it to be as good as it was last year,” he said. “We had a better holiday season last year than what we expected.”

Davis said the Christmas shopping season is the most important time of the year for Stage.

“It pretty much drives our business,” he said. “It is not as make or break as people may think, but Christmas shopping usually is about 40 to 50 percent of our business for the whole year.”

In Vidalia, RRUS owner Kristen McKinley said this is the third year her store has been open, and the holiday shopping season has been the busiest time for her store every year.

“Black Friday is crazy here, and we don’t even have any sells going on,” she said. “We have already had a lot of people come in the store and buy Christmas gifts, and it will continue to go like that until Christmas.”

And good Christmas business translates into more jobs, even if just temporary ones, at local stores.

Belk store manager Mary Flach said hiring temporary workers for the Christmas rush is already occupying her time, but she’s not complaining too much.

“People are really starting to think about Christmas,” she said. “This time of the year really drives the business.”

Flach said Belk has been through a lot of preparation for the upcoming holiday season.

“We are fully loaded right now,” she said. “We have been unloading five trucks a week for the past month.

“We have had a good year so far, and we are thankful for that. And we are looking forward to having a good Christmas season as well.”

A few local stores kicked of holiday spending early with Christmas open houses during the last few weeks. For One of a Kind manager Joanna Lofton, that early start to sales is essential, she said.

“The summers are slow and there is not a lot going on,” she said. “We count down the days until our open house, and we prepare months in advance.”