Stores ready for big week of Christmas shopping

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 19, 2010

NATCHEZ — The countdown has started. With just six shopping days before Christmas morning, local stores are gearing up for a last-minute rush of customers.

Natchez Mall manager Marie Lofton said traffic has been steady all season long, but she expects a jump in the number of people at the mall beginning Saturday and Sunday.

To accommodate the last minute shoppers, the mall will be open extended hours, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. until Christmas Eve, with other stores like Belk and JCPenney opening even earlier.

Email newsletter signup

“We are giving people a little extra time to finish off their shopping,” Lofton said. “We’ve been busy, very busy really, but I expect Thursday and Friday will be crazy.”

That’s what Brenda Zerby, owner of Moreton’s Flowerland in Natchez, expects too. She said so far shopping has been “consistently busy” since the Christmas shopping season started.

“Sales have been good, but not over the top,” Zerby said. “We are pleased, but you can always hope to do a little better.”

Zerby said early in the season her store does a good bit of in-home decorating that drives sales, and now, as the holiday approaches, the emphasis will shift to fresh centerpieces and flowers.

“This year’s trend has been pretty traditional,” Zerby said.

Lofton said while it is hard to judge whether people are shopping more or less than usual, she said having such big crowds at the mall and other stores is good for the community.

“They are out looking and shopping which is great for the area for bringing money into businesses and tax dollars into the city,” she said.

Lofton said shoppers may not realize the impact shopping locally can have, but she said only positives come from keeping dollars in the community.

“When businesses are looking to locate here, they look at a lot of data that gives them confidence about how they will be supported by the people,” she said. “They see all the figures, and if we shop here, that looks good to them.”

Jonathan Wood, owner of Old South Trading Post, got an early Christmas present when his parking lot was reopened after construction work closed it for four months.

“Since we got our parking lot back Thursday, our business has more than doubled,” Wood said.

Wood said that is partly due to the parking lot convenience and also due to the time of year. He said the national mailed sales at the store have been at record levels this year — more than 18,000 customers on the mailing list — and in-store sales have been good, too.

“Customers still want value for the dollar and still want a selection of unique items. They want to be able to find something different and something distinct to the region.”

For storeowners, the Christmas surge doesn’t stop on Christmas Eve.

“What we’ll see next is people who got money for Christmas looking for things to spend it on,” Wood said.

Zerby said she sees a lot of that, too.

“People will come back and get thing that they had their eye on but didn’t pick up before Christmas,” Zerby said.