Welcome to the Black Friday edition of The Closing Bell. It’s a bit of a departure; instead of a briefing covering a broad variety of subjects, Insider Louisville takes a look at how local retailers are preparing for the holiday shopping season.
Local independent retailers are seeing early signs that this holiday shopping season is going to be a good one.
An early snowfall and a good economy seem to be getting people in the mood to shop even before Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, and independent retailers are optimistic.
“I think the weather was nice yesterday (Saturday, Nov. 17), and people were kind of getting into the spirit,” said Dave Carney, owner of the Sweet Spot Candy Shoppe, 1583 Bardstown Road. “It really did feel like people were out Christmas shopping. Usually, our rush happens the week after Thanksgiving, so it was good to see that it happened early.”
Retail holiday sales are expected to increase 5 percent to 5.6 percent compared to last year’s shopping season, according to Deloitte’s annual retail holiday sales forecast.
Louisville’s retailers are seeing early shoppers, which is in line with RetailMeNot’s 2018 Holiday Insights Guide, which said that consumers would hit stores early and that they would split their shopping between online and brick-and-mortar stores. It also said 60 percent of shoppers planned to hit stores before Black Friday.
“Ten to 20 years ago, the focus was on competing with the big box stores. But that’s not as much of a threat now,” said Jennifer Rubenstein, director of the Louisville Independent Business Alliance. “Toys ‘R’ Us is closed, and Borders is closed. Businesses are looking to differentiate experiences and banding together for the holidays and things like that.”
The constant elephant in the retail room is Amazon, which threatens to destroy undermine businesses. But new research says otherwise.
A recent study by Funding Circle found that Prime members still have a strong preference for buying local.
The survey found that 76 percent of Amazon Prime members are still making the effort to shop at independent, local small businesses — and are willing to pay more to do so — than buying the same items on Amazon.
A majority of these respondents, 60 percent, said they would pay a 10 percent premium or more to buy an item locally. When asked why, consumers said they would do this because they like supporting small businesses, keeping the money within their communities and supporting local jobs.
The survey also showed that consumers had price-checked items on Amazon while shopping in a store in the past month. But even when the online price was cheaper, 45 percent of them said they still bought the item in the store.
When asked what would encourage them to shop at small businesses more, consumers pointed to more convenience, better selection and a better shopping experience as major factors.
Rubenstein said that independent businesses can definitely provide that. “Making shopping a more pleasant, neighborly experience instead of parking a mile away,” Rubenstein said. “That’s where independents have their strengths.”
Ina Miller of the NuLu Business Association said its businesses are in good spirits.
“We in NuLu just finished our Jingle Fest, which is the kickoff to our holiday season, and it was probably one of the best yet,” she said. “It’s been happening for the last five years. I don’t know if it’s because Thanksgiving is earlier or people are just in the mood, but we talked to a lot of businesses after, and they all said it was one of the best yet. So we’re pretty encouraged.”
Karen Welch, co-owner of Craft’s Gallery and Mercantile, 572 S. Fourth St., agrees.
“So much business! It’s already picking up,” she said. “You know winter’s come early in Louisville for some reason — the seasons aren’t like we know them. And I think it’s put people in the mood. I mean right now (Friday afternoon, Nov. 16), I’ve got a house full. The people are out, they’re shopping, I think Christmas is something they’re looking forward to because everything’s been so crazy.”
The closure of Toys ‘R’ Us has improved sales at local toy store Playthings Toy Shoppe, which has two locations. Manager Kristen Dolle, who helps her mother Vickie Noe run the business, said sales have been good for the past few months.
“So far, so good,” Dolle said. “People are definitely out Christmas shopping, for sure.”
She said the weather has been good to the store.
“You never know whether the weather is related to shopping, but I think it definitely helps,” she said. “Especially with the snow (on Nov. 15), it’s felt like December. I think it does help. I think it gets people in the Christmas mood.”
Because Toys ‘R’ Us has closed, Playthings gets a boost. Dolle said people search “toy stores near me,” and Playthings pops up.
“We’re definitely seeing people that were going to shop there,” Dolle said. “We’re going to take it while we can.”
Early shopping festivities have helped, too. The Peppermint Palm, 3741 Lexington Road, saw some good foot traffic at its recent Holiday Walk.
“We had a lot of foot traffic, and we had wonderful sales,” said Jane Bennett, store manager. “If that’s any indication, then we should have a really terrific holiday season. Everyone was in a festive mood getting ready for the holidays.”
Most retailers are offering special deals and prices for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. Be sure to ask at each store if they have any specials. Here are a few of the many events around town:
- LIBA is having its Buy Local, Win $1000 hoLOUdays Contest. Now through Jan. 2, shoppers can enter to win a $1,000 LIBA gift card at any of the more than 450 LIBA member retailers. More info and official contest rules are available at keeplouisvilleweird.com/hoLOUdays.
- LIBA will also host “12 Nights of hoLOUdays,” a series of special events at different local retailers. The first event will be 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27, at Red Tree, 701 E. Market Street, and will feature complimentary cookies, 50 percent off all holiday ornaments, and a drawing for a $50 Red Tree gift card.
- LIBA will celebrate Small Business Saturday, on Nov. 24 by hosting two special events. The South End Shop Small BrewgaLOU will be 10 a.m. to noon at Feeder’s Supply, 4921 Dixie Highway, and feature pop-up shops and a coffee tasting from south Louisville coffee shops. The Shop Small West event will be 3 to 5 p.m. at Lyles Mall, 2600 W. Broadway, and will feature door prizes, kids’ activities, pictures with Santa, refreshments and shopping.
- Small Business Saturday at NuLu, AC Hotel by Marriott, if you bring in your receipt from a NuLu business, you get 20 percent off your bar tab. Girl Scouts will wrap all your holiday presents at the hotel from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Bardstown Road Aglow will take place from dusk to 10 p.m. on Dec. 1.
- The F.A.T. Friday Trolley Hop and Old Tyme Christmas on Frankfort Avenue is also on Dec. 1.
- The First Friday Trolley Hop is Dec. 7, with several NuLu businesses offering deals.
- Four Roses NuLu Days Cocktail Challenge finishes up Dec. 1.
- Westport Village is hosting Light Up the Village, 5 to 8 p.m. on Nov. 30. There will be food and drinks, along with shopping specials from local retailers.
- Norton Commons will host “Shop Small Saturday” events, where independently owned businesses will be offering various specials and promotions. There will be a Holiday Open House 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Dec. 1, and stores will be offering special deals, promotions, and holiday sales all day.