By Kinsey Grant
It won’t be long before red and green wreaths and twinkling Christmas decorations light up Main Street in downtown Lexington. The garlands and ornaments may stay up for only a few weeks, but merchants have been preparing for the holiday season for months.
Trez Sebrell, manager of Ladles & Linens on Main Street, said the holiday season is the busiest time of year for her kitchen shop. She said her store records so many sales on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday – the weekend after Thanksgiving – that they don’t total the numbers until those days pass.
On Black Friday, she expects some goods to sell out within two hours. At the top of many shoppers’ lists, Sebrell said, is a new line of Wüsthof knives.
Sebrell isn’t alone in her optimism and reliance on post-Thanksgiving shopping. Erin Hutchinson, owner of The Stitchin’ Post, also on Main Street, said Black Friday and Small Business Saturday are her biggest days.
Hutchinson thinks holiday season sales at her store – which has only been open two years – will be record-breaking, “up 20 percent” from last year.
Sebrell said her store and others in the Lexington business district will hold events or promotions every weekend until Christmas to excite shoppers and encourage the local retail market.
Earlier this week, Ladles & Linens hosted a “Santa’s Helper Evening” during which shoppers prepared wish lists of store items they hoped to receive during the holiday season. The kitchen shop teamed up with Walkabout Outfitter, a move that the National Retail Federation suggests.
Small-business owner Christina Begley told the NRF her Shop Small movement benefitted from what she called “cross-collaboration opportunities.”
This Saturday, Ladles & Linens will host another holiday-themed event with Cocoa Manna, a Virginia-based hot chocolate company, and offer gourmet cocoa samples to customers.
This event is part of a Main Street Lexington initiative to thank local shoppers by offering free samples, extended hours, door prizes and more.
“People have already started seriously shopping for the holidays, which is early,” Sunday’s Child manager Rae Stephens said. Stephens’ store on Washington Street, which has sold toys and gifts for 23 years, has had “stellar” sales in November, she said.
Stephens credits the sales increase to greater customer confidence in the economy.
And according to the University of Michigan Survey of Consumers, confidence rose in early November to the highest level since 2004. This is likely because consumers expect larger income increases and lower inflation moving into the end of the year.
Despite a good outlook for the 2015 holiday season, many stores in downtown Lexington face major competition from online retailers.
At Pappagallo, a women’s clothing boutique on Main Street, saleswoman Laura Gentry said the store offers lower-priced Frye boots and Dansko shoes compared to online retailers. She hopes the added discount will attract buyers who might otherwise do their holiday shopping online.
The store also hopes to bring in more customers after Thanksgiving by offering 10 percent off all boots and shoes.
According to retail analytics expert Retail Next, Inc., brick-and-mortar sales are set to vary by industry this holiday season, but could drop seven to eight percent compared to last year.
But Lexington is an unusual retail market. Although most local merchants agree that the holiday season brings a major uptick in sales – $630.5 billion of holiday spending is done during winter holidays, according to the NRF – the local market remains strong throughout the year.
“With Lexington, it’s kind of all year round because we have so many tourists in the summer and then in the fall we get the alumni from the two schools coming in for football games and Homecoming…we tend to stay pretty busy,” Sebrell said.
Most of The Stitchin’ Post’s customers during summer and fall are tourists, Hutchinson said. However, around the holidays, the customers are “regulars.”
“We have a very loyal clientele here,” said Hutchinson.
Information also gathered by Lyssa Test, Laura Waggener and Lindsay Castleberry.