Thursday, December 25, 2008

Black Friday, the Sequel

So Christmas is here, everything's been unwrapped, and we're all laying around fat and happy. But not for long.
Somewhere around ten o'clock tonight, we'll all get that little itch to get back out there with the masses tomorrow and do more shopping. Return stuff. Get more stuff. Use the gift cards that are already burning a hole in your pocket (like they are in mine).
Retailers, David and Goliaths alike, are waiting for this day to potentially save their holiday season. Sales percentages this year represent the worst numbers in decades. The majority of retailers, despite monster deals and promotions, are reporting losses.
Not a good forecast for our already bleak economy. Bad revenue now leads to more layoffs later, which has a ripple effect that touches us all.
So tomorrow is perhaps the second biggest shopping day of the year: Black Friday, the Sequel. And I hate to keep beating this drum, but if our big retail giants are going a little hungry right now, that means our local independent retailers are starving. So if we're going to spend a little post-holiday cash and scratch our shopping itch, let's all try to do it at our favorite mom and pop places that need it a little more than Target and Walmart. So everyone can enjoy the holiday bacchanalia!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Thanks, AJC

Too often mainstream newspapers focus on what the Big Box stores are doing. Pick up any major metropolitan paper on Black Friday, and you'll most likely see a story about what's on sale at Macy's, Sears, Target, Walmart. Story will probably be on the front page. Of course, you can flip through the paper and see their full-page ads, too, touting these very same sales.

As it gets closer to Christmas, you'll probably see a variation of that article again and again. Stocking stuffers, gift guides, last-minute gift ideas. ... all focus on what's available at the chains and franchises.

So we were happy to see a fresh approach at the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Along with their stories on the chains, AJC reporters also went out into their own neighborhoods, checked out what the local businesses were doing.

We hope other papers follow AJC's lead.

Here are excerpts and links to two stories the paper recently published:

Little stores, big hopes
Location counts for local, independent retailers. During dismal season, intown shops with higher foot traffic may fare better than those in suburbs.

By Jamie Gumbrecht
Tuesday, December 23, 2008

During this scrimp-and-save holiday shopping season, the problems hitting major chain retailers are being felt by small, locally owned stores, too.
In fact, it may be even worse for the little guys, such as Peony Lin, owner of Lavender boutique in Alpharetta.
“We have seen an increase in shoppers versus last month, still not as good as it was last year,” Lin said. “They’re cutting down on their purchases, much more cautious. They’re always asking for sales, coupons. They’re always trying to find the best deal.”

Go local for unique gifts

By Nedra Rhone
Sunday, December 07, 2008

The holidays can drive even the hardiest of shoppers batty, and the mall-averse may find themselves particularly vulnerable to the holiday shopping blues. Fortunately, there are more and more options —- local craft markets, neighborhood specialty shops and online shopping —- to satisfy the nonmall shopper who seeks a one-stop experience.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Show charity year-round

I always feel a little bad for the Salvation Army bell-ringers. Lots of people do anything they can to avoid them, like putting their heads down, walking around them quickly or using another entrance and exit from the store.

And still they stand, silently soliciting by their lone kettles. I stopped to talk to one in Ellenton recently on my way into Publix. I only had a couple of dollars, but as always, it was appreciated. And I hated to ask, but since we are living in scary economic times, I wondered how the donations were faring.

Horribly, he told me. No one has any money to spare, which means the less fortunate shall get less help. It's everywhere; every time I turn on the news there's an update on the crisis situation in our food pantries and homeless shelters. Things are dire.

"Maybe things will perk up soon," I told him. "Then next Christmas will be a little better for all."

But he told me something that we all know in our hearts but tend to forget in the minutia of everyday life: "We need to give all year. Not just as Christmas."

How true. People are poor year-round; children don't stop needing clothing and toys because the holiday season has ended. Families don't stop needing food on the table. And I took a look at my life after he said this, and counted how many times I've cleaned out the pantry and tossed away things that the soup kitchens could have used. How many articles of clothing have been gotten rid of with the tags still on them.

We need to show charity as much as we can, not just at this time of the year. So I'm urging all my readers, join with me. Make a pledge for the New Year to give something to those who have nothing.