The holiday shopping season is off to a good start, according to many local retailers.
Out of 22 local businesses polled Monday by The Augusta Chronicle and The Columbia County News-Times, 18 said their Black Friday weekend sales were better than last year’s, two said their numbers were about the same and two said sales were down from last year’s.
Hope Seamon, the owner of La Dee Da Home Decor & Gifts in North Augusta, said she remembers the weekend as a blur.
“That’s how I know it went well,” she joked. “I barely remember what I had to eat.”
The weekend was a roaring success for her business, and sales were double what they were last year. She even opened Sunday to accommodate the steady stream of customers.
La Dee Da ran a few specials, Seamon said, but she doesn’t think of herself in competition with larger retailers running midnight doorbuster deals. The store opened at its usual 10 a.m.
“I think if people are going to do the whole shopping thing, they’re going to go home and rest for a while and then come back out to the local stores,” she said. “I think a lot of my customers don’t even try to battle the big store crowds.”
Unlike Seamon, Allison Adams, owner of Martinez consignment store The Shop And Drop, said she believes many shoppers were too tuckered out to visit her store on Friday.
"I think a lot of people were sleeping in Friday after going to the mall at midnight," she said.
But business was much better on Saturday, Adams said, thanks to her participation in Shop Local, an effort sponsored by American Express to convince shoppers to patronize locally-owned businesses.
“Next year, we won’t do anything on Black Friday," Adams said. "We’ll do it on Saturday. … We were a lot busier on Saturday.”
Like Adams, Joanna Neumeister, manager of the Evans-based Whatever: A Unique Boutique, believes many shoppers already were worn out from early morning excursions to larger department stores by the time her shop opened at 10 a.m. Friday.
“Friday seemed to be about normal for us," she said. "It was about the same as it was last year for us.”
However, Neumeister said she is hopeful future holiday weekend sales will grow.
“A few years back, we had some really big Black Fridays. … I think the economy has changed it," Neumeister said. "It’s still on the rebound, but it’s getting better. I think next year will be even better for us.”
Van Smith, owner of Lionel Smith Ltd. in Aiken, said his sales were up 10 percent over last year.
“It felt more like Thanksgiving weekends of old. We had more people walking downtown and more people in the businesses. Not just my business. I saw it all over the place,” Smith said. “Both days were really good. I’m optimistic that this is going to be a good Christmas season. I feel there’s going to be a lot of pent-up spending.”
Weekend sales at The Curiosity Shop on Park Avenue in downtown Aiken were up 30 percent from last year, owner John B. Heaton said. The shop sells imported grocery, jewelry and clothing items.
“I think the shoppers this year tend to be a little bit more optimistic than they have been in the past about the economy,” Heaton said. “We were packed all day Saturday. We were very pleased with the weekend sales and the amount of people that were coming in and looking at things.”
Dianne Wood, who owns Peacock Hill in Thomson, said her business did not experience the high sales numbers other stores did.
“I think most people went to Augusta to get Black Friday deals,” she said. “They wanted to hit a lot of stores at once.”
Wood said she is still optimistic about this holiday season but doesn’t expect it to get going until after Dec. 1.
“I’m very optimistic,” she said. “For us, once people get Black Friday done with, then they start doing their local shopping.”
Linda Rybicki, manager of the Grovetown and Aiken locations of Boots, Bridles & Britches, said the stores did did well over the weekend but not as well as previous Thanksgiving weekends.
“We were certainly happy with the numbers,” she said.
The stores did at least double the business of typical nonholiday weekends and sold more items such as apparel and boots, rather than saddles or other large items, she said.
Though sales at Learning Express Toys in Evans were not better than previous Thanksgiving weekends, owner Trey Allen said they were up for the year.
“My sales were flat for Black Friday; comparing apples to apples," Allen said. "But (sales) were better than they have been up to this point this year. So far this year, I’ve been behind. To be flat was good.”
Also showing an uptick in sales for the year was Lucky Lady Pecans, Gifts and More in Harlem.
“We actually did very well,” manager LeeAnn Meyer said. “We did well, particularly on Saturday.”
Meyer said sales for the entire week of Thanksgiving were double that of any previous week.
Business was about the same, maybe slightly up, at The Toy Box in Surrey Center, owner Juli Means said.
“For a small boutique store, obviously we don’t have the lines wrapped around the building like some of the big box stores do. But what you have is a great atmosphere for shoppers and a great way to kick off the holiday season,” Means said.
This holiday shopping season, Means predicts sales will be up or the same. She’s optimistic because she’s heard many people haven’t started their holiday shopping.
“That’s encouraging for local shops,” she said. “That means if they’re waiting this late, they’re going to come and shop locally and let us wrap for them and deliver and get the customer service they’re looking for, instead of trying to go online.”
Sales were also up from last year at PeachMac on Washington Road in Evans, said president Darryl Peck.
“It was a terrific day. … We think it’s going to be a great holiday season all around,” Peck said.