Slash & earn

Published 8:04 am Wednesday, December 31, 2008

FRANKLIN—While retailers across the country may be unhappy with sales recorded during this Christmas season, Franklin merchants are content with their numbers.

Nationally, retailers experienced a 23.7 percent decrease in foot traffic during the final days leading up to Christmas over last year, according to also reported that the decrease resulted in an overall decline of 5.3 percent in sales under the 2007 season.

Franklin merchants appear mostly untouched by those statistics.

“I believe sales were just as good this year as last,” said Alberta Jones, manager of Cato on Armory Drive.

Odell Giles, a floor manager at Belk, agreed, but said she thinks people held out for longer than normal. “We saw a big increase (in sales) from Monday to Wednesday. I think people were waiting for better bargains and sales.”

Billy Smith of Smith Jewelers said although his high-end sales (transactions of more than $3,000) saw a slump, his other sales were up.

“Overall, it was better than what I expected,” Smith said. “We were extremely busy. I am more fortunate than a lot of people in my industry, who I have seen lose a lot of their business.”

The positive sales numbers may be a result of more Franklin residents staying closer to home for their holiday shopping.

Jones said she noticed more people shopping in Franklin this year than in previous times. “When I came into my store on Christmas Eve, I saw that the parking lot was unusually full,” she said.

Giles attributed this increase in local traffic to the current recession.

“More people came in saying they were sticking close to home because they were unsure about the economy and felt they could get better bargains in town instead of going to the malls.”

Giles has worked for Belk for nearly 25 years and said she couldn’t remember a time when the company slashed prices as low, so early. “We usually don’t see the types of discounts we advertised before Christmas until after the New Year, so that was different.”

New business owner Mary Ann Turner of Southern Charm Garden Center said she was pleased with the sales results from her first holiday season.

“With the way this economy is right now, I’m satisfied with the way things turned out. I hope we keep it up in the coming year,” she said.

Although Franklin retailers were happy with sales, some area residents still said they were more conservative in their spending this season.

Franklin’s stores were full of people on Friday who waited until after Christmas to catch the merchandise markdowns.

Carolyn Johnson decided to drive in from Gates County, N.C., to cash in on the after-Christmas sales.

“I didn’t spend as much money before Christmas because of high gas prices and the cost of everything going up,” she said. “I’m just out today hunting for sales.”

Julia Montney of Windsor was out with her daughter, Clarissa Saunders, attempting to take advantage of slashed prices.

“I am doing more after Christmas because of the bargains you find,” Montney said. “I didn’t spend much before because bills have to come first and this year was tight.”

Montney said she also let her creative side show in her gift-giving.

“I went back to crafting,” she said.

Regardless of economics, Montney said she had a wonderful Christmas.

“We made the day more about family and friends than material things. We had a very special day.”

Kathy Grannis, spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation said actual retail sales results for the month of December would be released on Jan. 14.