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‘Shopping season’ off to good start locally

By Staff | Nov 27, 2012

Large department stores, small businesses and data analysts reported an increase in sales this year for the start of the holiday shopping season.

Consumers apparently turned out for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. According to estimates from retailers, local business owners and experts, shoppers spent more each day than compared to 2011.

Cathy Norwood, store manager of the Belk in Cape Coral, said the store opened early Thursday rather than waiting until 3 a.m. Friday as usual.

“This year, we opened at midnight,” she said. “It was our first time.”

“We had about 600 people waiting in line to come in,” Norwood said.

The first 250 through the door were given gift cards ranging from $5 to $1,000. There was only one $1,000 winner, and each store gave one away.

“Everyone was pleasant,” she said. “There were no issues.”

The store saw a 30 percent jump in sales over last year’s Black Friday.

“A good percent of the business came between midnight and 2 a.m.,” Norwood said. “We’ve had a positive increase basically every day.”

While Friday lends itself to mall, department store and big box store shopping, Small Business Saturday focuses on the smaller venues. Tom Rosanio, owner of Zak’s Jewelry, said the crowd Saturday was decent.

“Business was good. People were in and out of the store all day long,” he said. “We had shoppers, we had buyers, we had browsers.”

Rosanio thinks people are spending a little bit more money this year.

“Business looks like it’s going to be good for the holidays,” he said, adding that he is optimistic about the coming season. “I think it’ll be pretty good.”

Norwood agreed.

“We definitely feel good about it,” she said, adding that the opening weekend numbers are up. “Our sales have definitely increased from last year.”

Cape Dog Bakery and Cat House owner Anita Simmons said she and her husband actually close down the store on Friday because most shoppers hit the bigger stores. However, they take part in Small Business Saturday.

“It was good,” she said. “We were up quite a bit (in sales).”

According to Simmons, a few customers took advantage of a program through American Express that rewarded shoppers with a $25 gift card.

“They specifically came to make their purchase and get their $25 gift certificate,” she said. “A couple of people had signed up last year as well.”

Simmons acknowledged that Small Business Saturday and the American Express program help to bring in additional holiday spending dollars.

“Anything that brings light to small businesses is more the better,” she said.

According to cloud-based analytics findings by IBM, holiday shoppers turned this year’s Cyber Monday into the biggest spending day ever with online sales growing more than 30 percent when compared to the same period last year.

“More than 18 percent of consumers used a mobile device to visit a retailer’s site, an increase of more than 70 percent,” IBM reported. “Mobile sales reached close to 13 percent, an increase of more than 96 percent.”

Overall, 58.1 percent of Cyber Monday shoppers used smartphones this year, as compared to 41.9 percent who used tablets to surf online for bargains.

The average order value was $185.12 – a 6.6 percent dip from 2011.

Norwood did not have Monday’s online sales numbers available. She said though that the company did a good job of tying the Cyber Monday deals in with those in store by putting the information on a flyer for customers.

“So they’re not the same, but it gave the stores a piece of business, too,” Norwood said.

Big ticket items at Belk this weekend were boots, luggage and sheets.

“A lot of shoes, in general, but boots was a real driver for that,” she said. “It was really driven by whatever you could find for the best price.”

For Simmons, shoppers are moving away from pet clothes and jewelry.

“More people are buying food as gifts – things that are good for their dogs,” she said. “They’re concentrating on good nutrition for their dogs.”

Products made in the United States and non-holiday items are also big.

“People are looking for things that last a little bit longer,” Simmons said. “They’re buying quality instead of something that just has a Santa on it.”

Rosanio has noticed customers selections “running the gamut.”

“Expensive watches, expensive engagement rings, less expensive pendants and more expensive pendants,” he said. “There’s not one specific thing that people are coming in for.”

“People are coming in asking for a little of everything,” Rosanio said.