People who put off holiday shopping until the last possible moment might want to check their calendars.
Retailers are checking theirs.
The holiday shopping season, beginning on the day after Thanksgiving, which has come to be known as Black Friday, will be six days shorter this year. 2013 offers the shortest holiday shopping season in recent memory.
Dane Seibert, a retail consultant who lives in Sandy Springs, said many stores began their holiday promotions earlier this year. The continued growth of Internet sales has put added pressure on retail stores, particularly local ones.
“They’re going to have to get really creative. They’re also going to fight Internet sales, which are growing substantially,” Siebert said. “If they haven’t already got their plans started, they’re already behind.”
In the Perimeter and throughout the country, retailers are looking for ways to attract more customers during the shortened shopping window. Some of the nation’s largest retailers, including Walmart and JCPenney, planned to open on Thanksgiving Day.
Online retailers will be competitive this year, too. According to a study by the Adobe Digital Index, the shorter shopping window will cost retailers $1.5 billion in online sales.
George Lawes, owner of Kudzu Antiques in Sandy Springs, said his business will hold special events throughout the season to bring people through the doors. There will be music and refreshments.
Lawes hopes Kudzu can attract civic-minded customers who support local businesses.
“As bricks-and-mortar retailers, we’re continuing to fight for the consumer’s choice because of the Internet,” Lawes said. “So many people now buy through the Internet. One thing that we feel is important is for people to support local brick and mortar retailers that are locally owned. We hope more consumers will value that choice, because if everybody shops at Amazon, you’re not going to have any stores left in people’s hometowns. If Sandy Springs wants to maintain a vibrant retail community, a consumer has to support that.”
Kelly Wolff, owner of the Hunter Collective jewelry store in Buckhead on East Andrews, opened her business two months ago. She’ll contend with having fewer holiday shopping days and being the new store on the block. “I’m figuring it out as I go along,” Wolff said. “The West Village here in Buckhead is getting together to do the Small Shop Saturday on Nov. 30. There’ll be carolers and hot cider stations throughout the West Village. From an event planning standpoint, we’re going to offer 10 percent off for that weekend.”
In Dunwoody, Michael Beattie counts on holiday sales at his photo-finishing business, Dunwoody Photo. Most photographers have switched to digital cameras, he said, and the film processing business has just about vanished. “When I started [in the business] in 1997, we did 300-350 rolls of film a day. Now I do 300 rolls of film a month,” he said. “I’ve been waiting for the last two months of the year to see where we’re at. We’re kind of break-even the other months.”
He’s hopeful that the seasonal push that comes when people turn their family photos into holiday albums, greeting cards and calendars will make the difference in Dunwoody Photo’s first year.
Cori DeFrancis, owner of Fantastic Finds for Him in Sandy Springs, said people already are shopping for presents at her store. “I think we are having a busier time right now,” she said. “This time in November usually has been a little bit quieter.”
Alison Norris, owner of Alison’s Restaurant, is optimistic about this holiday season, too. She depends on the holiday season for party bookings, she said, and this year she’s already pre-booked more parties than last year. “I’m looking good,” she said. “I can take more, but I’m looking good.”
Ed Grenvicz, owner of Pour Bistro in Brookhaven, said restaurants won’t be as susceptible to the shorter calendar as the retail stores. He said the restaurant is promoting the space it has available for rent on Sunday for people looking for a venue for a holiday party.
“We’re still going to have the same number of actual holiday days,” he said. “Our job is to try to squeeze as many Christmas events and other folks coming through our doors as possible.”
Mike Cosentino, owner of Big Peach Running Co. in Brookhaven, said he planned for the shortened calendar a year ago. Also, his business does a substantial amount of sales just after the new year, attracting customers who are buying running shoes to help them keep their New Year’s resolutions.
“The biggest surprise to me is how much it seems to be a surprise to everyone else, given how much of us in this business were looking at this a year ago,” Cosentino said. “What I’ve heard is that the tendency to mark things down ridiculously low is more likely, because of the fact that there are some retailers who feel like they over-bought. Because of the shortened season, they aren’t going to get the velocity they need to get through the inventory they have.”