Local stores gear up for holiday season (Tulsa World)

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By Mike Averill Tulsa World

Nov 11, 2017

The holiday season is serious business for store owners, especially when you consider that the next two months will account for as much as 40 percent of annual sales.

Holiday spending is projected to be between $678.8 billion and $682 billion this year, according to a forecast from the National Retail Federation. A survey for the trade association showed that 59 percent of consumers will shop online, compared to 25 percent who will shop at a small, local business.

As e-commerce grows and big box stores search for ways to compete for online spending, several local shops are taking the opposite approach.

They’ve found that providing great customer service and the opportunity to see, touch and feel the merchandise is as attractive to some as ordering gifts from a computer is to others.

“The competition isn’t within the item. It’s within the service and the size,” said Jan Stevens, owner of Snow Goose in Utica Square. “People aren’t looking to wander through a big box store. That’s not a pleasant feeling.”

This is the 37th holiday season for the store, which sells gifts, novelties, greeting cards, women’s clothing and holiday items.

“We can sell you a 60-cent rubber roach or a $600 jacket, whichever you prefer,” Stevens said.

The only real criteria for the items in the shop are quality, design and fun. Stevens said all of her employees at the store have been with the Snow Goose for at least five years — and some more than 20.

“That’s what makes everything tick. We’re family-owned, but we’re also a family,” she said. “Customers can feel it so they feel comfortable here.”

Consumers surveyed for National Retail Federation said they plan on spending an average of $967.13 this year, according to the annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics. That’s up 3.4 percent from the $935.58 consumers said they would spend when surveyed at the same time last year.

“With employment and incomes increasing, consumers are more confident this year and that is reflected in their buying plans for the holidays,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said.

“Retailers have been stocking up in expectation of this, and all signs are that this will be a busy holiday season. Retailers are preparing for a rush of consumers leading into Thanksgiving and all through December, and are offering a wide array of merchandise and promotions so shoppers can find great gifts and great deals at the same time.”

Local specialty toy store Kiddlestix, 3815 S. Harvard Ave., has already seen a surge in customers making their holiday purchases.

“Once Halloween is over, it really starts,” Kiddlestix owner Jana Doyle said. “People just turn it on and go into Christmas mode.”

Competing against big box toy stores that can buy in bulk can be difficult. Kiddlestix carries some items that you can find at other locations — including a large selection of LEGOs — but is bolstered by the lines its carries that are not available at larger chains.

There are also companies it works with that restrict what prices can be charged online at sites like Amazon in order to level the playing field for stores like Kiddlestix.

“If I’m going to bring in a product that I know is on Amazon, I know it can’t be sold for less than a certain price,” Doyle said.

She also knows that customer service, and the ability to go beyond in personal ways that larger stores can’t, are drivers to success.

Small Business Saturday

The first Saturday after Thanksgiving has been dubbed Small Business Saturday, with the idea being that shoppers focus their Black Friday energy and dollars on big box retailers.

A new analysis from Womply, a San Francisco-based software-as-a-service company, shows that small, local retailers are impacted more by traditional shopping days than one designated for small brick and mortar stores.

Last holiday season, Black Friday was the biggest revenue day for Oklahoma retailers with 166 percent of normal daily revenue.

The second busiest day was Dec. 23, where local retailers pulled in 149 percent of normal daily revenue, according to the analysis, which looked at transactions from nearly 1,050 Oklahoma retailers during the 2016 holiday season.

Small retailers pulled in 112 percent of average daily revenue eon Small Business Saturday last year.