The holiday shopping season is off to a record start.
Businesses nationwide began to offer special sales as early as Thanksgiving evening and continued on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday to kick off the busiest shopping time of the year. A record 247 million shoppers — a 9.2 percent increase from last year — took advantage of the offers and visited stores and websites during the four-day weekend, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation.
Customers nationwide spent a combined $59.1 billion between Thursday and Sunday, which is a 12.8 percent increase from last year.
Sherry Taylor, director of the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce, said the weekend benefited Carbondale businesses.
“To me, it looked like the economic impact was pretty big for the area,” she said. “I drove past the mall and several shopping centers in Carbondale, and the parking lots were full. Obviously, this is exciting because the sales tax dollars help the city and allow us to improve roads and city services.”
Several independently owned businesses tried to get a share of the record-setting revenue by offering specials on Small Business Saturday, a nationwide shopping day created by American Express in 2010 that aims to draw attention to smaller retailers.
More than two dozen Carbondale stores registered to participate in the event.
“I think it’s important for people to consider it because the small businesses are owned locally, and the money stays local,” said Rick Reeve, owner of Shawnee Trails. “I think the small businesses make towns unique and give shoppers more opportunities.”
Reeve, who said his store offered a couple of sales, said his business had a good turnout Saturday despite seeing very little business Friday. He said he believes customers tend to choose big-box retailers Friday before giving their attention to the smaller stores the day after.
“There were a lot of people out who voiced that they were excited to shop on Small Business Saturday,” he said. “It was encouraging. We were getting business just because of the kind of store we are.”
Doug McDonald, owner of Phoenix Cycles, said his store also saw a business increase. He said he did not offer many incentives to customers because it typically isn’t popular during the holiday season. However, he said that didn’t stop customers from shopping there Saturday.
“We had people come in and tell us that they were here downtown shopping locally rather than going to the big department stores, which was pretty neat for us,” he said. “We had new customers come in who we really hadn’t seen in the store before.”
Scott Thorne, owner of Castle Perilous Games, said his store participated in the event but did not see an increase in business.
“Sales for us were pretty typical for a Saturday,” he said. “We didn’t see any bumps in business because of Small Business Saturday. We saw an increase on Black Friday, but not on Saturday.”
Thorne also said he was disappointed because of all the day’s hype. He said his store will participate in more promotions throughout the holidays to help jumpstart business.
“I was hoping to see more,” he said. “Because so many students leave for the holidays, we typically see a decrease in business around those days.”