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Local businesses feel the heat of the holidays

By Corey Risinger

On the road to recovering from the recession, last year’s holiday revenues instill hope in all shops from small businesses to large-scale malls. According to the National Retail Foundation, on Black Friday alone, businesses raked in a whopping $45 billion dollars, a number that leaves many local shops eager to prepare for their own holiday gift.

A Southern Season decks the halls with unique gifts and festive decorations.

A Southern Season:

As their prominent outdoor decorations demonstrate, A Southern Season is no stranger to the holiday preparation process. Although the store has only decorated after Thanksgiving in the past, this year it joined a long line of other businesses eager to ignite holiday cheer.

“We try not to [decorate for the holidays] quite as early,” said marketing manager Wendy Sease, but that’s what people want.”

In the past month, the store has bustled with early holiday shoppers and a myriad of newly designed new holiday marketing techniques. A Southern Season has also hired a store merchandize decorator whose job is dedicated to the beautification of the store’s many holiday displays and decorations, which include 25 Christmas trees.

“[Embodying the] old business term, ‘Stack ‘em high, watch ‘em fly,” Sease said. “The store is looking coherent and great [thanks to our new decorator],” Sease said.

A Southern Season has also taken other measures to improve customer satisfaction. So, as the store itself exudes holiday cheer, it has also made an effort to enhance its online presence for shoppers, a method of marketing that numerous local businesses have turned to in recent years. A Southern Season and other local stores have also found it useful to put an emphasis on vender demonstrations. These demos include book-signings that feature both local and critically acclaimed authors.

The store’s focus on fine foods is designed to expand A Southern Season’s customer demographic to broader age groups, Sease said. “But this year especially [the store] is working hard to incorporate more of a family appeal,” she said.

 

Bath and Body Works embodies holiday cheer with their elaborate displays.

Bath and Body Works:

Southpoint Mall’s Bath and Body Works is also a friend of the concept of early decorating and preparation for the holiday season.

“As soon as Halloween hits, it’s Christmastime,” sales associate Brandy Jones said.

The store expects a healthy crowd this holiday season, and is planning for this anticipated boost by hiring a seasonal staff to “man the fort.” Jones says that in weekly store meetings, Bath and Body Works has informed employees that 50 additional workers will be on hand in the upcoming month. Unlike A Southern Season’s merchandizer approach to decorating, Bath and Body Works workers are responsible for adding some of their own holiday cheer to the store.

According to Jones, during one of their recent employee meetings, the staff took it upon themselves to festively decorate the store, staying six hours beyond closing time to put the finishing touches on their displays.

 

Overnight, Southpoint Mall is transformed into a Winter Wonderland.

The Streets at Southpoint:

At Southpoint Mall, customer service attendant Shalia Frazier attests to the chaos of holiday shopping, while happily adding that she did not work Black Friday this year. Frazier says the mall fosters an atmosphere of cheer and enthusiasm, even in the face of heavy traffic changes in November and December.

“I couldn’t say that the recession is over, but people are happier and ready to shop,” Frazier said, who notes that at the customer service desk, gift card sales increase by more than 15 times during the holidays.

Unlike an individual store’s weeks of preparation, Southpoint Mall’s vast array of holiday decorations appear in just a single night of work.

“One night a few weeks ago,” Frazier says, she “returned to see a mall suddenly glowing with holiday cheer.”

Maurice Sanders, a member of Southpoint’s Mall security team, also appreciates the boom of the holiday season.

“The holidays bring more people out of the house because everyone needs a gift, so business definitely picks up. With [larger] crowds, every member of the mall staff has to be more aware.”

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