“Cautiously optimistic” is how Katherine Cullen describes the feelings of business owners as they approach the holiday season.
After all, the holiday season, which encompasses Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and more, traditionally represents at least 20% of most businesses’ retail sales, said Cullen, the senior director of industry and consumer insight for the National Retail Federation. And the retail industry has been in recovery since June, when most businesses began reopening after COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns, she said.
“We’re cautiously optimistic because there are a lot of unknowns,” Cullen said. “This is the time of year people want to shop in person, so we’re all adapting. The big thing we want people to know, together with retailers, (is that) they can create new holiday traditions. They can shop early and shop safely.”
The holiday season of 2020 likely won’t look like past seasons because of the economic pressures resulting from the pandemic, but local retailers are hopeful that sales will be strong enough to move them in a positive direction.
Sales have increased this fall, causing Branden Clark, owner of Blue Moon Boutique in Joplin, to remain hopeful for a strong holiday season. Blue Moon Boutique, 613 S. Main St., offers women’s clothing, jewelry, gift items, and home and holiday decor.
“I think people are staying more local and shopping local rather than going out of town as much,” Clark said. “We’ve bought (merchandise) thinking it will be a good holiday season, so we’re trying to stay positive.”
‘Come shop locally’
Shoe store Sophie, 531 S. Main St., owned by Ashley Wakefield, also is ready for the Christmas season. Manager Jade Thompson said a recent successful VIP event helped kick off the season, which includes the traditional “12 days of Christmas” sales spaced out as deals during the six weeks leading up to Dec. 25.
“We hope people will get out and come shop locally,” Thompson said. “They can do so knowing they are supporting families and helping to grow their community.”
While the Christmas season is not typically Runaround Running & Fitness’ biggest quarter, owner Erik Bartlett sees it as another way to provide customers with a variety of new items. The store is located at 422 S. Main St. in Joplin, and Bartlett also plans to open Bartlett’s Shoes in downtown Joplin next spring.
“We’re your neighbors,” Bartlett said. “Local businesses are truly here to help the customers and make a stronger community. More of the money here stays here for every product sold than any other national chain. We have the same products, our prices are the same, and we are here to offer our expertise to help customers make a good investment.”
Kirsten Anderson opened Lennons, a women’s boutique, in Joplin in 2018. After temporarily closing during citywide shutdown mandates last spring, she moved her business into a new downtown location in July.
“2020 has been rough on everyone, and I think being able to actually have a reason to buy, and to get out and experience the festive feel that comes with holiday shopping, is going to be a bit of an escape for some,” Anderson said. “It’s much-needed retail therapy for sure — this year more than ever.”
Kara Hardesty opened Village Square Boutique in Carthage two years ago. In March, just as the pandemic took hold, she moved the business into a larger location on the Carthage square.
While sales are down from last year, Hardesty remains optimistic about what’s ahead for her boutique as people shop at small businesses.
“We’ve had more sales in the last 30 days than we projected, so I’m optimistic,” she said. “I think right now people understand small businesses are important. I’m excited because I see people aware of how lucky they are to have shopping available to them in Carthage.”
The Christmas season looks bright for Natasha Smith as she prepares to celebrate the first anniversary of Cactus Creek Boutique in Neosho later this month. While her storefront closed for a while last spring, Smith’s online business blossomed. In fact, she said, online sales have become strong.
“We set some goals and surpassed some things,” Smith said. “We’ve definitely been blessed for sure.”