Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
As their mama dealt with exchanging an item at Bealls, Madison and Allison Buckholt had more serious business to attend to Friday: Finding dolls to live in the castle they received for Christmas.
Specifically, a pair of flame-tressed mermaids that would keep a smaller doll – also named Ariel – company.
Allison, 4, had things figured out as far as how they would keep the three mermaids straight: “I'll tell them that I love them,” she said, as her sister, 3, inspected the packaging surrounding her Ariel.
The girls, the daughters of Jeff and Dottie Buckholt of Rusk, shopped at the local store, joining thousands of consumers throughout the nation taking advantage of holiday sales offered during the week between Christmas and New Year's Day.
According to the Associated Press, U.S. holiday sales so far have been the weakest since 2008, when the nation was in a deep recession, despite bargains and incentives offered by stores prior to Christmas.
This final week of December can account for an estimated 15 percent of the month's sales, with Dec. 26 typically one of the biggest shopping days of the year.
These sales are something the girls' aunt, Donna Rogers of Rusk, says she traditionally likes to take advantage of.
“The sales are great. My sister and I are out, just looking at all the holiday sales – it's a good time to look for a New Year's wardrobe,” she laughed, as her brother-in-law added, “we're here for a little bit of everything – my wife had the wrong size shoes, and her sister wanted to come with us (to shop).”
Fellow Rusk resident Stacey Gillespie said her family also liked catching post-holiday sales, especially finding clothes for her children, ages 16, 14 and 8.
“We always look for clothes,” she said, going through clothing racks as she sought items for her daughter Miranda. “Santa brings the toys, we get the clothes.”
Her husband, Jeff Gillespie, said that because the array of goods offered are smaller in Cherokee County or even Tyler, it's not uncommon for the family to load into their vehicle and spend a few days in Dallas, Austin or Hous-ton, shopping for deals.
“There's just a lot more selection, so it's worth going to a bigger city, though it would be nice to find these things locally,” he said, shaking his head.
The after-Christmas shopping rush, according to the Associated Press, illustrates just how important these sales are, with consumer spending accounting for 70 percent of economic activity.
Many retailers bring in up to 40 percent of their annual revenue during the two-month holiday shopping period at the end of the year.
The National Retail Federation, the nation's largest retail trade group has predicted that total sales for November and December will be up 4.1 percent to $586.1 billion this year.
The figure is more than a percentage point lower than the growth in each of the past two years, and the smallest increase since 2009 when sales were up just 0.3 percent.
However, Beall's store manager Rebecca Ryan hasn't noticed any slow-down in sales since she began working here two months ago.
“We had the after-Christmas sales, plus we were expecting returns and exchanges, too. It hasn't been as busy as before Christmas, but it's been steady … business has been good. We've seen a lot of exchanges, a lot of people are just getting something different. There's not a whole lot of just straight returns,” she said, adding that people mostly come looking for marked-down items and sales.
“We're beating our last year's sales, and we're at an increase over last year from the month of December,” she said.
A lagging economy hasn't seemed to have impacted sales, either, something Ryan said she noticed during Black Friday sales that kicked off the holiday shopping season on Nov. 23.
“It was crazy,” she recalled. “I had never seen anything like that.”