By now, most people have bought Christmas decorations for their home and floral arrangements for parties, but Lawrence Mayer Florist in downtown Macon -- like many other retailers -- is busy helping shoppers complete their Christmas list.
“I anticipate very last minute calls,” said owner Jon Mayer this week as he and his employees worked on flower arrangements to be delivered or picked up before Christmas.
His business is actually busier just before Valentines and Mother’s Day, but Christmas is a longer sale season, he said. This year it’s been going well.
“It’s been good actually,” Mayer said. “Not as in pre-recession good, but good. I’ve been busy.”
In anticipation of getting those last-minute shoppers, the shop at 608 Mulberry St. will be open 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Christmas Eve.
Florence Allen, owner of William’s Store at 2356 Ingleside Ave. in Macon, also has had a good year.
“So far so good,” Allen said about the toy store. “I’m on track and probably a little better than last year. It’s been up and down, but overall a good year.”
Tuesday, just days before Christmas, Allen said she was “very busy, pretty steady,” all day.
“During the last 10 days I’m seeing more people still coming out and still shopping,” she said. “We were really busy Saturday and somewhat busy on Sunday.
Since Christmas Eve falls on a Saturday, she is expecting a last-minute wave that day. The store will be open 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
“I always get people who are just starting (shopping),” she said. “I’m looking forward to Santa coming on Christmas Eve.”
In north Bibb County at The Shoppes at River Crossing, which has more than 65 stores, retailers were very busy during Black Friday -- the Friday after Thanksgiving -- and this past Saturday, which is traditionally known as Super Saturday, said Bill Baker, senior general manager of the shopping center that opened in 2008.
“This season has been pretty darn strong,” Baker said. “Most of the stores are up over last year and some of them are considerably up. Our traffic this past weekend and also on Black Friday, I don’t think we’ve had that many cars on the property before. It’s been very strong. On Saturday from about noon until 3:30, it was an absolute zoo.”
On Christmas Eve, Baker said he expects “that last-minute wave of people who either procrastinate or they are waiting to see if there are some really, really special deals out there. The problem when you do that is there might be a special deal but the inventory level might be a little light.”
The stores at River Crossing will open at 8 a.m. Christmas Eve, except for Belk and Dick’s Sporting Goods, which will open at 7 a.m. All the stores will close at 6 p.m.
Sales up from last year
What some midstate retailers are seeing this holiday season seems to be happening across the state, said John Fleming, director of communications for the Georgia Retail Association.
While the final figures for November and December sales will be out in January, an informal survey indicates a gain of 3.5 percent in sales for Black Friday, Fleming said.
“We’ve since been watching to see if that trend continues,” he said. “So far we have seen increased strength in retail sales so we think we are going to hold to that number for the entire holiday season. ... It’s an average year pre-recession, but for us that’s really good right now.”
The National Retail Federation on Dec. 15 upgraded its holiday forecast, expecting holiday sales to rise 3.8 percent this year to $469.1 billion, up from its October forecast of a growth of 2.8 percent from last year, according to a news release.
“Consumer spending this holiday season has surpassed expectations, though many shoppers continue to stick to their budgets and buy only what they need,” federation Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in the release.
Anything electronic has been the hot ticket this year.
“This has been the year of the tablet,” Fleming said. “And there are a lot of competing models from the top of the line to children’s tablets.”
Also high-definition TVs have been big sellers, especially because retailers have been offering deep discounts.
“I think there was some pent up demand for people who had not upgraded their TV for a few years because they have been waiting and prices finally got good enough ... and they felt better about the economy,” Fleming said.
Brad Spiegel, co-owner of Macon-based Quality Computer Systems, 2940 Riverside Drive, said laptop computers are “definitely a hot item and desktops are making a comeback.”
Spiegel said he’s not expecting a big crowd of shoppers on Christmas Eve -- the store is open 10 a.m.-1 p.m. -- but he expects to see more customers Thursday and Friday.
Last-minute shoppers expected out in full force
Retailers reported that business was brisk this past Saturday and Sunday, Fleming said. One retailer told him: “They were in here like animals this weekend. They wiped us out.”
“We are hearing that the inventories are tight, which is a good sign,” he said.
Retailers did not order a lot of extra product prior to the holiday season because they didn’t want to have to unload a lot of unsold inventory after the holidays.
“It sounds like they did just about right,” Fleming said. “They are running out of product. For those procrastinators, if you haven’t gotten it by now, you had better go out and get it today,” he said Monday.
Most retailers expected, and got, the big push last weekend, but people are still going to be shopping Christmas Eve, he said.
“We are just going to have to see how that plays out,” Fleming said. “A lot of people like to be finished before Christmas Eve, ... and you are still going to see sales, but really in the retail industry, we like to have a full weekend.”
Surveys have shown that men tend to make up the bulk of last-minute shoppers, Fleming said.
Grace Anderson, co-owner of Ginger Michelle in downtown Macon, agrees with that. The shop at 466 First St., which sells ladies clothing, shoes, handbags, jewelry and other accessories, will be open 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday.
“We are open on Christmas Eve just for the men because that’s pretty much all that comes in,” Anderson said. “They come in to get gift certificates usually, because they are lost when they come in here. Once in awhile, we will get a man who comes in to pick out an outfit or something, but most of them go straight to the gift certificates.”
To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.