North Carolina retailers are ready for the holiday season

Published 6:25 am Friday, November 26, 2021

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By Ann Edmondson, North Carolina Retail Merchants Association

Although many shoppers have already begun their shopping, the 2021 holiday shopping season officially starts this week and North Carolina retailers are ready. The North Carolina Retail Merchants Association (NCRMA), along with its 2,500 retail members across the state, encourages consumers to #ShopNC this year.

Many consumers are hearing of staffing and supply shortages that retailers are facing as the Thanksgiving holiday ushers in the official start of the holiday shopping season. However, retailers have merchandise on the shelves and racks and are ready to offer the customer service consumers expect from their favorite stores.

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Over the challenges of the last 20 months and including the 2020 holiday shopping season, retailers have learned to adapt their strategies to ensure they are serving customers safely and effectively. Some will choose to close on Thanksgiving Day again this year while others have already begun offering “Black Friday” deals that will continue into the coming weeks, and others will be featuring the same deals both in-store and online throughout the holiday season to allow consumers to spread out their shopping.

“North Carolina retailers are geared up for this holiday season,” said Andy Ellen, president and general counsel of NCRMA. “For our independent retail store owners in small town North Carolina, the holiday shopping season is an extremely important time. For many of them, holiday sales will help them finish the year successfully they are excited to welcome customers into their stores.”

Ellen encourages consumers to shop local businesses, saying, “their commitment to their communities, where they live and operate, is strong and deep, and we hope shoppers will visit brick and mortar stores not only because of their excellent staff, superior customer service and the specialty products they provide, but also to give back to their communities, by keeping their money local.”

The National Retail Federation (NRF) is predicting the highest retail sales on record with holiday sales growing between 8,5 percent and 10.5 percent over 2020 to between $843.4 billion and $859 billion nationwide. According NRF and Prosper Insights & Analytics, consumers surveyed said they would spend, on average, $998 on items such as gifts, food, decorations and other holiday-related items with the bulk of their spending, $648, going towards gifts for family and friends.

Gift cards remain the most requested item on wish lists, as they have been for more than 10 years, but clothing and accessories are a close second. Books, music, movies, electronics and video games are also popular items on shopping lists this year. Gift cards are always an excellent option as it supports retailers now and provide an opportunity for recipients to shop when they want and perhaps take advantage of the after-holiday sales.

Ellen advises consumers to be sure they are taking precautions to buy legitimate gift cards. The primary way to ensure you are getting a gift card that is the correct value and will work when you gift it is to buy from a reliable source. Also, discount gift cards (sold below value) are tempting, but be aware that they may have been compromised. For instance, they may have been stolen or exchanged for stolen goods. Gift cards are a great gift to give and receive but be smart and keep them secure.

“I hope North Carolina consumers will support the local businesses that support what they care about in their community – their schools, their youth organizations, their Food Banks, and employing their neighbors,” said Ellen. “These are the brick and mortar stores, both independent and chain, who are engrained in every community across the state who, along with employing one out of every four North Carolinians and collecting the sales taxes that fund our roads and schools, also sponsor the little league team, high school band and school spirit night. This holiday season we encourage you to return their goodwill and support your local retailer this holiday season.”