With the economy growing, albeit slowly, local businesses are looking for ways to make sure this Christmas is merrier than last for their bottom lines.
“They went all over the store and anything they wanted they put down,” said T. Floyd, manager of the Villa Rica Merle Norman store. “Some made wish lists, some just looked, but at least they turned out for us.”
Several retailers in and around downtown Villa Rica said it’s still too early to tell whether their sales numbers will be up from last year. Most say they get a lot of their Christmas business the week before the holiday, when shoppers hit the streets in large numbers looking for last-minute gifts.
“We did a tremendous amount last year the week before Christmas and I feel like hopefully that’s where a lot of ours will come from, is the last week,” said Brenda Matthews, co-owner of Swirls Unique Gifts.
While Matthews is optimistic, she is also realistic, noting that sales in November weren’t any better this year than in 2011.
Tiffany Powers, owner of Books by Design, is in a similar situation. Powers said that even though the economy is improving, the entire year has been a roller coaster.
“I have either a really good week or a really bad week,” said Powers.
Sassy Ladies Boutique and Gifts is one business that has bucked that trend. Co-owner Cheryl Tyson said business has been good all year for the store, which started out on Highway 61 about 10 years ago and has been in downtown Villa Rica the past six years.
In fact, Tyson said, her shop has weathered the entire recession pretty well.
“I think the first year when they considered us in the recession, we were only down about three percent,” Tyson said. “Which I was very happy with, because we knew a lot of people who were going out of business. It has stayed very steady actually since then. We’ve been concerned every year that it’s going to drop, but it hasn’t.”
Still, whether this Christmas shopping season will be better than last year remains to be seen.
“I haven’t actually checked the numbers, but I know business has been good. It’s been good all year,” said Tyson.
One thing all four businesses said they’ve been trying to do year-round to get a leg up on the national chain stores and mall shops is to provide unique goods and personal service customers can’t get at those bigger stores.
Matthews sells a line of shirts, ornaments and calendars made by Brushfire Designs, a Mississippi-based company that focuses on Christian-themed gifts. Swirls has a Christmas tree in the store decorated entirely with the Brushfire Christmas ornaments.
“It’s very unique,” Matthews said. “I think we’re the only one around here that carries Brushfire. So that has been a big help.”
Tyson said Sassy Ladies has stocked a lot more women’s clothing items this year and that sales of clothes have been brisk. She said the store has built a strong customer base in part by being up front about pricing. She pointed to a grey vest hanging on a rack in the store that retails for $140 and then noted the normal price at Sassy Ladies was $100.
“We try not to play mind games,” said Tyson. “We try to stay competitive with the big name stores. I think that’s why our customers keep coming back.”
Floyd said Merle Norman has added a line of Raquel Welch wigs to help increase business, adding to the makeup the store is known for along with things like handbags and jewelry.
Powers, who sells used books, recently had a grandmother on a budget looking for a set of the popular “Hunger Games” books as a Christmas gift for her granddaughter. Powers used her store’s Facebook page to help put the collection together for her customer.
“She picked them up last week and within her budget,” Powers said. “The big present her granddaughter wanted for Christmas was books. Well that’s a good thing as opposed to all of the other things she could have wanted. That made me happy.”