By Maya Lora
Photos by Isaac Thompson
Holiday shopping can make or break a retailer. In Lexington, shopkeepers are gearing up to combat growing e-commerce competition.
The National Retail Federation expects more than 164 million consumers to shop from Thanksgiving Day to Cyber Monday on Dec. 2. More than 71% of them will shop on Black Friday, the nickname given to the day after Thanksgiving because that’s when retailers often see their profitability move out of the “red” to “black.”
Local shops are banking on the next day – Small Business Saturday — to boost their bottom line. “You can’t expect [Black Friday] to be what it was anymore,” said Anna-Lisa Fitzgerald, owner of Books & Co. … Toys, Too.
Business owners hope to inspire customers to shut off their computers and shop on Main Street. The retailers are fighting digital giant Amazon’s popular two-day shipping, as well its broad assortment of goods.
One effort to build traffic is Main Street Lexington’s “Love Lexington Lotto” sweepstakes, which runs from Small Business Saturday until Christmas Eve. Participants can win up to $1,000 to shop downtown.
It could work, according to research by the International Council for Shopping Centers. About 90 percent of shoppers will go to stores, especially if there’s an incentive to lure them inside.
Claudia Carrell, visiting Lexington from Arlington, Va., said “if something catches my eye in the window, then I’ll go in.”
Downtown stores are already decked with bright lights, fake snow and Christmas trees to create a more festive mood. Since the early 1920s, retailers such as Macy’s have relied on holiday parades or photos with Santa Claus to build traffic, according to history.com.
Lexington will host its annual Christmas parade Dec. 6.
Merchandise displays also need to catch shoppers’ eyes. Lex Running Shop rearranged the store layout to put watches and headphones in the front to showcase “gifts someone might not get for themselves,” said owner Jess Reid, who also encourages new customers to join their group runs.
Some shop owners know that running a small business comes with daily challenges. “If you’re in it for the money, retail is the wrong business,” said Fitzgerald, who has owned Books & Co. for about 20 years. “It’s to help the community.”
Still, it frustrates store owners to lose business to Amazon. “It’s definitely more challenging just because people can easily shop online and get it shipped to them,” said Zander Tallman, owner of Just Games Lexington.
Some customers also like the David and Goliath approach.
“Our goal,” said Kathy Larlee, a shopper at Books & Co., “is the absolute destruction of Amazon.”
Annie Echols, Coleman Martinson, Dani Murray, Isaac Thompson, J.D. Wilson, Max Weis, Gigi Lancaster, Jamie Archie, Matt Lanigan, Jimmie Johnson III and Liza Moore also contributed to this story.