Lake Norman & Mooresville

Seasonal buying starts strong and a bit thrifty

Greater Mooresville retailers are optimistic this year.

And if retailers' optimism pans out, consumers may benefit from extra TLC while shopping at small businesses but see crowded parking lots at the malls.

Bill Russell, CEO of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce, said the mood "is optimistic in retail - and what they'll see around the holidays." The buying trend in November was better than last year in the weeks leading up to the Thanksgiving weekend, Russell reported local retailers as saying.

Small-shop owners are training employees to educate customers about products so shoppers know better whether the gifts will work for someone on their lists. Others are spending more on marketing and developing promotional strategies to entice buyers to spend.

"It is difficult to estimate how well the retail industry will do this holiday season, although I know that owners are gearing up to promote creatively and collaboratively," said Karen Shore, CEO of the Mooresville-South Iredell Chamber of Commerce.

"I believe that folks are thinking more about practical needs for themselves and for others this year."

A desire to save money in this uncertain economy may drive some shoppers to local consignment or thrift stores.

"This holiday season we are seeing a spike in our gift-card sales," said Julia Austin, owner of FiFi's Fine Resale in Cornelius. Austin said inventory changes quickly and that one-of-a-kind specials are the norm.

"It is the thrill of finding top designer items at a ridiculously low price," said Austin. "We also are seeing an increase in sales for our holiday wear."

Jewelry and accessories are fast sellers this year, she said.

Shore encourages everyone to spend money with local merchants.

"The benefit to the community is the reinvestment of those dollars, which creates sustainability for our economy," she said.