Local retailers looking to holiday shopping for boost in business

Published 8:25 pm Friday, November 27, 2020

By Ben Stansell and Carl Blankenship

SALISBURY — As businesses and customers prepared for one of the biggest weekends of the holiday shopping season, Downtown Salisbury Inc. Director Latoya Price said the weekend would be bustling for local stores.

“I think it’s going to be a busy day and a busy evening, even though we do have COVID,” Price said about Black Friday. “From a safety standpoint, all of our shops have put safety measures in place so they only allow a certain number of people and are requesting people to wear a mask. I think it’s going to be a good day.”

Oxford + Lee store manager Hayley Morgan anticipated a busy Black Friday and said that she believes people will be “shopping small more” this holiday season.

Barnhardt Jewelers had about 50 people in line by 8 a.m. on Friday, Josh Barnhardt said. Until about 10 a.m., the shop’s new location was packed; people kept coming through the day, too. The new store opened on Monday and has 1,500 square-feet of floorspace compared to the old Spencer location’s 600 square-feet. Barnhardt said the extra space helped the store keep people socially distanced and check out more people at once. A box of masks was at the door.

Going into Friday, Barnhardt was concerned the turnout would be light, but it surpassed expectations.

“We didn’t plan to move during a global pandemic,” Barnhardt said. “But honestly our business has done better than we would have expected this first week.”

Linda Hunter said she was not doing much shopping on Friday but she wanted to visit the new location.

“I love the new shop,” Hunter said. “I liked it in Spencer because it was close, but this is fine.”

Hunter said she usually does some shopping on Black Friday, though she wanted to avoid crowds this year because of COVID-19.

“I just hope that everybody stays safe during this season,” Hunter said.

Price said that, while she didn’t expect as many people to shop on Black Friday and during the weekend overall this year as compared to 2019, she expected store owners to receive a bump in activity. A poll conducted by High Point University echoed Price’s prediction that there would likely be fewer North Carolinians shopping on Black Friday this year. 

The poll found that 31% of residents in the Tar Heel state planned to shop the day after Thanksgiving. That number was down from the 2019 poll by the same group, when 38% of people said they were planning to shop on Black Friday. Just over half of people polled this year say they will not be shopping on Black Friday this year and 15% of people were unsure.

The same poll found that only 13% of North Carolinians plan to do most of their shopping at brick-and-mortar stores. Meanwhile, 44% plan to do most of their shopping online and an additional 30% of respondents say they will do both equally.

Paula Murphy, who lives in China Grove, told the Post that her holiday shopping wouldn’t change much compared to previous years.

“Over the past several years, I have shopped online and in-person,” Murphy said in response to on online survey. “I use caution (mask and distancing) when shopping around others but being around others adds to the holiday spirit.”

Fewer people willing to shop on Black Friday could be an indication of lingering fears over risks associated with COVID-19. Almost two out of five (39%) people who responded to the poll said their views of COVID-19 affected their holiday shopping this year a lot. About one-third (35%) say that COVID-19 has affected their views a little bit, and only 21% say not at all.

The coronavirus pandemic could also cause people to spend less on holiday shopping. The poll found that the same proportion of North Carolinians say they will spend less (38%) or about the same amount of money (39%) on the holidays this year compared to last year.

“Most of the North Carolinians we surveyed will spend the same or less than last year on the holidays,” Brian McDonald, associate director of the HPU Poll and adjunct professor, said in a news release. “And a majority of poll respondents told us that COVID-19 has affected their holiday shopping this year in some regard.”

The National Retail Federation predicts a rosier picture of holiday shopping and expects holiday sales will grow between 3.6% and 5.2% over 2019 to a total between $755.3 billion and $766.7 billion.

The NRP expects most of that growth to come from online and other non-store sales, which are included in the total, will increase between 20 and 30% to between $202.5 billion and $218.4 billion, up from $168.7 billion last year.

That prediction bodes well for Cyber Monday, when retailers offer deals to online shoppers.

Price said that she expects Rowan Countians to support local businesses, whether it’s in-person or online.

“Even though it’s going to look a little different this year, the support of the community is very integral and important at this time and is an opportunity for the community, people outside of our community, to reinvest in our downtown,” Price said.

Downtown Salisbury Inc. created a 2020 Downtown Holiday Guide as a resource for people who are interested in shopping and eating downtown during the festive season.