Retailers: Shop at home

Published 9:35 am Wednesday, November 25, 2009

FRANKLIN—Uncertain about the effect the closure of International Paper Co.’s Franklin mill will have on their businesses, local retailers are hoping that residents will shop locally as one of the busiest shopping days of the year — Black Friday — approaches.

According to the National Retail Federation, holiday retail sales are expected to decline 1 percent to $437.6 billion this year, an improvement over 2008, when sales declined more than 3 percent.

“As the global economy continues to recover from the worst economic crisis most retailers have ever seen, Americans will focus primarily on practical gifts and shop on a budget this holiday season,” said NRF Chief Economist Rosalind Wells. While the national recession may be easing, IP’s impending closure is heavy on the minds of local retailers.

“We’re all scared, but we’re hoping for the best,” said Mary Ann Turner, owner of Southern Charm Garden Center in Franklin. “We need to shop at home.”

Turner said that she wouldn’t have special hours Friday, but she would have “Black Friday specials,” including 50 percent off Old World Christmas ornaments.

Turner said Monday afternoon that she hadn’t yet finalized all of her Black Friday sales plans.

“We’re still working on it,” she said.

“While last holiday season was filled with chaotic confusion, adjusting to uncertainty has now become routine for many Americans,” said Tracy Mullin, president and chief executive of the NRF. “This holiday season will be a bit of a dance between retailers and shoppers, with each group feeling the other out to understand how things have changed and how they must adapt.”

While there are likely to be deep discounts at retailers, there won’t be a lot of inventory, according to the NRF. Retailers have been preparing for a slow holiday season by scaling back inventory levels.

“Once the most popular items are gone, retailers won’t have anywhere to get them, so if there was ever a holiday season to buy early, this is it,” Mullin said.

Sears in Franklin is opening at 4 a.m. and offering special sales throughout the weekend.

“There are going to be some good deals on several things,” said owner Mickey Rosenfeld.

Rosenfeld said he is offering one big “doorbuster” sale — a front-loading washer and dryer set for $598.

There are only four to be had, he said.

“The first four people who come in for them will get a ticket,” he said.

Walgreens in Franklin is opening at 7 a.m. Friday, one hour earlier than normal, and offering deep discounts, according to Andy Childress, the store manager.

“Last year we had close to 100 people lined up outside,” he said. However, since specials are running all day this year as opposed to early morning sales, that number will likely be lower.

“I still expect quite a few lined up,” he said.

Childress said he expects those affected by the IP closure to be bargain hunting this season.

“A lot of them are going to be shopping the ads for bargains,” he said. “We’re all concerned, but hopefully we can offer bargains to get them into the stores.”

Steven Dail of Dail’s Home Center True Value in Franklin said the economy’s “effects were definitely felt” last year, and he expects this year to be similar.

“This season is probably going to be on pace with last year,” he said. Dail won’t be holding special hours Friday, but he is hoping that coupons and sales will help drive foot traffic into the store.

“This is something a little bit different,” he said of the store’s Black Friday circular. “It has more direct discounts.”

Like Childress, Dail said that people affected by the IP closure will likely be looking to save as much money as possible this season.

“It’s going to be weighing heavy on their minds,” he said. “They’re going to be looking for deals.”

“I’m just hoping we can keep some of the traffic here,” Dail said. “We need people to support these local businesses.”