ELKHART — The pre-Christmas shopping season is ramping up and will reach high gear on Friday, known as “Black Friday” for its ability to give retailers positive cash flow, putting them “in the black.”
The retail push is a long-standing phenomenon and it makes a big impact.
For instance, last year Indiana sales tax collections were up more than 16 percent in December over the average of the prior 11 months, according to numbers from the State Budget Agency.
“Everybody sort of does really well in November and December,” said Bob Dittmer, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Revenue.
Robert Thatcher, general manager of Concord Mall, said “Clearly the whole fourth quarter, holiday period is traditionally an important one. Historically it has represented as much as 40 percent in sales over that last 90 days” of the year, he said, and the mall “continues to see steady gains in both traffic as well as retail sales.”
Stores across the board add hours for their staffs and many hire extra people to handle the Christmas rush.
Brent Bahr, manager of the Menards store on Elkhart’s north side, said, “we don’t hire extra people for the holiday season,” but all employees get extra hours. Friday is the one day of the year everyone has to work, Bahr said.
The shopping rush “definitely keeps us busy through the end of the year. It affects every department,” he said.
The big box retailers beef up their staffs for the rush. Walmart added 50,000 employees — an average of about 13 per store — in the U.S. along with adding hours for existing employees.
Target added 80,000 to 90,000 seasonal employees which comes down to about 45 to 50 per store. Meijer added 12,000 people, an average of about 60 per store.
This year the National Retail Federation expects an increase of 4.1 percent this year over last year’s holiday sales.
“This is the most optimistic forecast NRF has released since the recession. In spite of the uncertainties that exist in our economy and among consumers, we believe we’ll see solid holiday sales growth this year,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay in releasing the outlook last month.
“The retail industry creates hundreds of thousands of jobs every holiday season by adding new staff in stores, distribution centers, and customer service departments across the country. In addition to the newly created jobs, many retailers also offer existing staff the opportunity to work longer hours if they want,” said Shay. “New jobs help people support their families, and for some, seasonal employment can turn into a career opportunity once the holidays have passed.”
SMALL BUSINESSES GET THE SPOTLIGHT ON SATURDAY
GOSHEN — While Black Friday conjures images of people lining up at big box stores early in the morning and Cyber Monday focuses on online shopping, in between a growing phenomenon is bringing attention to small, local merchants.
“Small Business Saturday” is a push launched in 2010 by American Express, and it’s growing.
Scott Woldruff, owner of Woldruff’s Shoes in downtown Goshen, hopes to have an official tie-in with the event, he said. He’s waiting on the signs from American Express. “It’s kind of a neat thing they do. We appreciate them helping us,” he said.
Woldruff was the only one of several businesses spot-checked in downtown Goshen who had definite plans to promote “Small Business Saturday,” but he wasn’t the only one who likes the event.
“I appreciate what they do, bringing a lot of attention to small businesses,” said Justin Bell, who owns the Nut Shoppe with his wife, Danae.
Many of the most popular categories of gifts for this year, according to the National Retail Federation, are on sale in area small businesses: Clothing, jewelry, books, CDs, food, candy and personal care/beauty items all landed high on people’s lists in an NRF survey conducted this month.
There’s a list at www.shopsmall.com of local businesses identified by American Express as small businesses, though the list doesn’t necessarily reflect businesses with specific plans for that day.
Any business wanting to participate can find resources at the same website.