Marshall stores hope to make more money this season

Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Barbara Lovell of Lynnville, displays a festive garment she's buying.

Like the rest of America, it only seemed to be all about the economy here on Black Friday when early Christmas shoppers' purchasing is supposed to put retailers back on track.

The engine driving the money train this season pulls passengers from a front door frenzy to the back walls, but that green goddess was reminded of the reason for the season at Lewisburg Garden Center.

"Poinsettias are the flowers of Christmas," says Amy Potts at her counter where churches buy the red-leaf plants to decorate sanctuaries. "The star-shaped formation of the red leaves suggests the guiding star of Bethlehem.

"The crown of yellow flowers reminds us of Him who was born the infant King," Potts says. "The blood-red leaves foreshadow the cruel cross that lay ahead for the King of Glory.

"And underneath," she concludes, "the carpet of green is the reflection of abundant life."

Abundance came with caution at Peebles in The Acres shopping center where store manager Robyn Surowitz said "We were pretty busy when we opened at 7 a.m."

More customers are served by part-time clerks who get more hours to sell cautiously selected clothes.

"This year, we've been a lot more careful on inventory," Surowitz said. "And, we're trying to sell at a better price.

"My staff is getting more hours," she said. "They don't normally get more than 20 a week, but now they're scheduled for up to 30 hours. I'm working more like 60 instead of 40... I don't have any seasonal hires coming in."

Elsewhere in town, there were "a whole lot more customers in the store this year," Wal-Mart store manager Martin Padgett said. "In five years, I've never had that many at one time."

Lewisburg's Wal-Mart opened in 2005, Padgett said.

"Usually, we start at 5 a.m." with time-sensitive sales, he said, "and at 5:30, you couldn't walk down there."

The first long aisle connecting groceries to dry goods had thinned to a concourse of daily commerce after the 5-11 a.m. rush.

"Usually, it thins out after ... 7:30 a.m. and then 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., it will be just an average day," Padgett said. "It's been a good morning. Everybody enjoyed shopping... Even though we had some great values today, our company will do some sales every weekend until Christmas."

Tractor Supply Co. store manager Dawn Wilson saw her Black Friday start through the eyes of a country girl.

"It was like a herd of cows coming in," Wilson said.

TSC team leader Kandy Stewart said there were "at least 30" people waiting at the front door when the store opened.

Nobody was injured in the stampede, Stewart said, explaining, "Everyone was pretty pleasant."

There were no sale prices on feed, but cast iron cookware was selling well.

"We had a lot of clothing go out -- mostly John Deere hoodies," Stewart said.

Wilson added that Carhartt jackets are also popular.

Bargain hunters continued to prowl the aisles at S&D, the store managed by Yvonne Earps.

"I came in at 6 a.m. and opened at 7 on the morning of Black Friday," Earps said, "and within the first 30 minutes, the cash register receipts showed that we sold about $500" worth of merchandise.

That dollar amount, she said, should be compared to price breaks of 30 percent.

"That's on all clothing, Christmas items, toys and, if people want to save money, they need to come here," she said.

Earps said she wishes more people in Marshall County knew about the store that specializes in deals found by the owners who scour the marketplace for the nooks and crannies of retail stores' shipment snafus, discontinued products, and the vagaries of commerce.

Across town, Cato manager Jackie Bean was philosophical at her store's cash register.

"As bad as the economy has been, we're showing an increase in business," she said.

"I live in Fayetteville," she replied to a question about customers rushing in, "and it was crazy" at one store in Lincoln County.

At the Shoe Show here, assistant manager Shylo Stelman said "We anticipate a good turnout.

"I really think people were going to the malls" on Black Friday, Stelman said. "They'll hit us later tonight or over the weekend," she concluded late on that Black Friday morning.

The chain store's "red dot sale" started Friday and continues through Feb. 28, Shoe Show's Stelman said.

Cato's manager explained her company's approach to marketing.

"We don't run sales," Bean said. "We do everyday low prices. None of the Cato stores run sales....

"Probably three times a month, we do markdowns," she explained.

Cato started during 1946 in South Carolina, Bean said. It soon moved to Charlotte, N.C., where its headquarters are now.

"It's a pretty stable company," Bean said.

Part-time Cato sales clerk Jessica Hobbs, 19, is also a full-time student at Columbia Sate Community College where she's studying athletic training. On Black Friday, she was helping visitor Shelly Reed of Old Lake Road.

"I'm just looking at the bargains," Reed said. "I work at Wal-Mart."

Meanwhile, Potts was surrounded by Christmas trees.

"Of all the Christmas symbols, none is more familiar that the evergreen," the professional gardener said. "Its use during the season is common throughout the world, both as simple decoration and as the Christmas tree. Long before the birth of Christ, evergreens were used as an emblem of eternal life.

"Now, as a Christian symbol, the evergreen represents Jesus Christ, who is eternal life."