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Downtown merchants want people to shop early, local during holiday season

SALISBURY — As the Christmas shopping season begins, Pam Coffield has some advice for customers who shop at Stitchin’ Post Gifts — if you see something you like, buy it.

That’s because, due to interruptions in the supply chain caused COVID-19, many of the vendors who supply her downtown store with clothing, candles and jewelry won’t be able to make extra orders in the heat of the holiday season.

“The merchandise that we have right now is here, but it may not be here tomorrow and I can’t fill in,” Coffield said. “My vendors don’t have the merchandise to fill in so we’ve had to plan our ordering and order what we need to last us through Christmas knowing there won’t be any opportunity to fill in orders.”

Alissa Redmond, the owner of South Main Book Company, is giving her book-loving patrons the same guidance. The coronavirus pandemic also put a pause on the publishing industry.

“It’s important to start getting out there and shopping now especially if there are things that you want that you’re worried the store might not carry because delivery and warehousing, there are just delays along every point of a sale,” Redmond said. “The printing presses aren’t running at full capacity and getting transportation for those books is a problem.”

Some customers, Redmond said, have already popped into the shop to buy Christmas presents or Holiday themed books like “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

Lesleigh Drye, the owner of Caniche, said that her customers were so ready for Christmas that they skipped Halloween and Thanksgiving.

“We were wrapping Christmas presents in October, so people are ready for Christmas,” Drye said.

Redmond and Coffield said customers seem especially enthusiastic for the happiest time of the year after a year that hasn’t been so happy.

“I would say it normally starts in November, but this year we did see an earlier start in about mid-October,” Coffield said. “I think it’s just because everybody is ready for it.”

Along with filling her shop with holiday apparel, Pam Coffield and her staff decorated Stitchin’ Post with festive decorations, which she said people are especially excited to see after a tough year. Ben Stansell/Salisbury Post

People may be ready to embrace the holidays, but they’re also primed to shop local. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rowan County Convention and Visitors Bureau rolled out a “Shop Local” campaign to encourage customers to spend their money at nearby shops and restaurants. James Meacham, the Rowan Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO, said that is excited to see people supporting local businesses.

“I think it’s important because it means the people who live here support the people who do business,” Meacham said. “The fact that local citizens and visitors to the community are supporting each other and businesses is the real win heading into this holiday season.”

While Meacham said it will be difficult to compare this holiday season’s sales numbers with years prior due to the unusual nature of the times, he’s optimistic that local shops will fare well. So are the local shops.

“It’s looking like it’s going to be a really good Christmas,” Redmond said. “I’ve already stocked the store so that we have a big Christmas because I think people understand the importance of shopping local now.”

To better reach their customers during the holidays, shop owners are implementing new methods and embracing existing tools. 

At Stitchin’ Post, Coffield and her staff are continuing to host Facebook live events where they show off their merchandise and even make sales online. Redmond is continuing to see online sales from her partnership with Bookshop, an online ordering system designed to help independent book sellers like her keep up with Amazon. At Caniche, Drye is allowing customers to reserve times to peruse the trinkets and gifts she has at her shop. Drye said that she has plans to launch her own e-commerce site by mid-November.

After a tumultuous year, Drye said that Christmas will be big for her store.

“It’s what we work all year toward,” Drye said. “It’s the fourth quarter and I don’t anticipate this year looking different sales wise, but it will look different and we will have to make adjustments, but I think people are excited to be out and shopping.”

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