Last-minute shoppers swarm stores

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 24, 2005

The squeak of shopping carts, hum of cash registers and the crinkling sound of bags being filled are all joyous music to the ears of local retailers each Christmas season.

This week, many were gearing up for what they anticipate will be a big shopping day today, the last day to shop before Christmas.

So far, it’s been a successful holiday season at the Greenville location of Fred’s Discount Store, manager Randy Beeson said on Thursday.

&uot;We are up this year, though it’s not a big increase over last Christmas. However, our year as a whole has seen a big increase in sales,&uot; Beeson said.

The Fred’s manager said toys and electronics have been particularly good sellers for the store this season.

&uot;Toys and electronics are the big winners for us. We have also sold a lot of home d\u00E9cor items and practical household items. Sales have been light on apparel, though.&uot;

Beeson said hunting equipment has also sold well at his store, particularly guns and ammo.

Keeping up with all the hot new electronic gadgets now on the market has been a challenge this season.

&uot;People are really looking for things like the MP3 players this year,&uot; he said.

Beeson said Christmas shopping trends have changed somewhat over the years.

&uot;You have kids nowadays where it’s like Christmas almost every month, it’s not as big a deal…so folks are making smaller purchases for a lot of individuals at Christmas, rather than bigger purchases for a few,&uot; Beeson said.

Plenty of folks have been coming in this week to make those purchases.

&uot;Everybody in the family is going to come to Fred’s for something they need pretty often. We have such a big variety of items, we have the best prices, and you can get in and out pretty quickly,&uot; Beeson said.

&uot;We are the perfect niche between the dollar stores and the big discount department stores.&uot;

Fred’s will be open until 6 p.m. tonight and will reopen on Monday at 8 a.m. to offer after-Christmas clearance bargains.

At Greenville’s biggest retailer, the Christmas shopping season has gone &uot;very well,&uot; Wal-Mart Supercenter manager Bill McCrary said on Thursday. He added, &uot;Everything has been above our expectations.&uot;

The recent spell of cold, wintry weather has sent cold-weather apparel sales shooting up at the store.

&uot;Anything fleece has been really popular this year,&uot; McCrary said.

The manager said toys and electronics were also big sellers for Wal-Mart this year – with one hot ticket item on many Christmas lists conspicuously absent.

&uot;X-Boxes,&uot; McCrary said with a sigh. &uot;PlayStations have sold well, but everybody wants an X-Box.

It’s been the one item we haven’t been able to get to meet the demand.&uot;

Party trays in the store’s deli department also have been selling well this season, McCrary said, along with the store’s large supply of gift cards.

&uot;Sales have been excellent for our gift cards, which come in all sorts of designs,&uot; he said.

&uot;This year, we have personalized gift cards available. You can put photos on them, Auburn and Alabama emblems – you name it. We’ve had a lot of fun with those.&uot;

The Greenville Wal-Mart will close today at 6 p.m. and re-open at 6 a.m. on the 26th.

McCrary said his staff is already getting geared up, preparing to put their &uot;return faces&uot; on for the traditional day of returns and exchanges.

&uot;Most customers are understanding about it all – and some aren’t. Whatever happens, we’ll be ready.&uot;

At Alissa’s Closet downtown, owner Vesta Taylor said her sales had picked up this week, though they were still down compared to the same time last year.

&uot;We had a great day on Monday and hope to have more good days on Friday and Christmas Eve,&uot; Taylor said on Thursday.

As with other retailers, toys have been a big seller for the shop owner this Christmas.

&uot;Our new Lee Middleton dolls have done very, very well. We plan to incorporate these dolls year-round in our baby area,&uot; Taylor said.

She said &uot;a good variety of items&uot; at Alissa’s Closet had been purchased as gifts this holiday season.

Taylor’s hours for Christmas Eve are from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. &uot;or as late as we need to stay to help customers.&uot;

&uot;We’ve still got lots of great gift items to offer folks,&uot; she said.

At 9 a.m. on Monday morning, Taylor will kick off a special two-day sale featuring

Christmas items, along with the shop’s display trees and furniture.

&uot;We’ll be changing our store’s entire look in the next few months.

So, our current display pieces will be offered at half off Monday and Tuesday. Don’t miss out.&uot;