Holiday Shopping Forecast in Mississippi – Mostly Optimistic

PJs and Christmas trees

While national opinions about the upcoming 2014 holiday shopping season vary from optimistic to cautious, Mississippi entrepreneurs and retailers are expecting improvement in consumer spending habits.
State economist Darrin Webb said that consumer optimism is currently running at its highest level since 2007, and projections are for holiday shopping to be about 4.2 percent higher in year over year growth nationally. This compares to a 3.1 percent gain retailers experienced in the previous two years.
“Income growth is beginning to improve modestly and (lower) gasoline prices are giving household budgets a little room,” said Webb. “In 2012, holiday shopping was hampered by the threat of the fiscal cliff, as well as Hurricane Sandy and the Connecticut school shooting. Last year, we had a government shutdown.
“Barring these type of events, and given the positive trends we’ve seen, you can see why folks are more optimistic (about the 2014 holiday shopping season).”
JRWebb Pottery owner Jonni Webb (no relation) said that while her October sales were stagnant, a robust November has provided hope for a prosperous 2014 holiday season.
“It seems people are shopping later than normal but I do believe we’re going to wind up with a good shopping season,” Webb said. “We’ve had several wholesale re-orders from stores and cooler weather this month apparently has gotten people in the mood for the holidays.”
The Madison-based potter added that she’s created lots of new items in anticipation of a brisk holiday shopping season.
Based on prior experience, Dorothy Chatman believes most shoppers will wait until after Thanksgiving. Chatman, CEO of Reflections Antiques & Collectables on the square in Canton, said she’s hoping for the best.
“Our store gets a lot of foot traffic during Canton’s Victorian Christmas event and we have lots of people visiting from out of town. It’s hard to gauge but we’ve put in a lot of work and I’m expecting a better year than last,” said Chatman, who has owned Reflections Antiques & Collectables for nearly five years.
Restaurateur/caterer Tommy Morgan has noticed an increase in business leading into the holidays. Morgan, who shares ownership of the popular Morgan’s on Main restaurant in downtown Collins with wife Wryn, said he is confident the 2014 holiday season will be one of the best in years.
In addition to serving meals, Morgan’s on Main caters holiday parties and provides carry-out, ready-to-eat baked ham, turkeys, chicken and dumplings, pies and cakes.
“We’ve seen a really good uptick in our gift card sales,” Morgan said. “Last year was pretty slim on people planning to use us for parties, but we’re hoping and praying that 2014 will be bigger. We’re optimistic, based on the amount of bookings we’ve had prior to Thanksgiving.”
In north Mississippi, T. Puterbaugh Gill Pottery Studio is gearing up for its annual Christmas open house. Artist-in-residence Terry Gill said sales at the 2013 open house exceeded the previous year by 40 percent.
“I sell to 15 various gift shops, and I’m overwhelmed with orders this year,” said Gill, whose Red Banks studio is situated between Memphis and Holly Springs. “Right now, we’re selling everything I can make and are quite pleased with our holiday season thus far.”
Gill’s open house will begin Dec. 13 and run through Christmas Eve.
According to the 2014 Holiday Purchase Intentions Survey conducted by The NPD Group, more consumers plan to wait until Thanksgiving weekend to start their holiday shopping, leading to a delayed start to the retail season.
The survey found that 18 percent of consumers claim they will start during Thanksgiving weekend, a five percent increase from 2013. Among the consumers reporting that they will begin their shopping during the holiday weekend, 12 percent plan to shop on Black Friday, while the remaining six percent will do their buying on Saturday and/or Sunday.
Though more national brands are joining the trend to open their stores on Thanksgiving Day, the practice doesn’t always translate to more sales at the register, according to industry analyst Marshal Cohen in an interview with Home Accents Today.
“After all, how much more money do (consumers) have in their holiday budget because the stores started promoting earlier?” Cohen asked. “This year, we’ll see more shopping happening in the Thanksgiving zone, a deeper lull following, and finally a mad dash at the end for last-minute shoppers.”
Nearly 60 percent of consumers plan to do at least some of their holiday shopping online this year, making the internet the leading platform for Yuletide purchases, according to Cohen.

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