Starkville retailers are reporting strong holiday sales aided by the Starkville Main Street Association’s Secret Santa program, and many have plans for clearance sales to close out the year.
The Secret Santa program uses Quick Response codes to surprise shoppers with varying discounts when tags are scanned, either with the customers’ own smart phones or with devices behind the counter. Secret Santa was a new 2011 SMSA program aimed at keeping holiday shopping local.
Barbara Foster, co-manager of Campus Book Mart and Cafe on Main Street, said she saw multiple customers using their smart phones to participate in Secret Santa at her store.
“That was something neat and different that (SMSA) had started,” Foster said. “I don’t know if a lot of people realize this, but the (Greater Starkville Development Partnership) really does a lot for the businesses in Starkville, and that was one of their many promotions they do to help us.”
George Sherman, owner of George Sherman Clothiers, said Secret Santa has potential if it returns next year.
“It was not a big factor for us, but it did play a part,” Sherman said.
Bo Summerford, manager of Reed’s in Starkville, said he, too, liked Secret Santa.
“Anytime there’s an incentive to get a shopper in a store, that’s a good thing for us,” Summerford said. “It just kept the customers involved.”
Independent of Secret Santa, all three retailers reported strong holiday sales. Summerford said he had not yet run the numbers for December, but traffic in the store looked good.
“Traffic-wise, I did not see a decrease,” Summerford said. “If I was looking at traffic, I would have to say our patronage was up for the year. I can’t complain. I feel like Starkville shoppers like to shop local. I really appreciate that aspect of the local shopping scene. It means a lot to all of us.”
Sherman said sales were wonderful, with several patrons shopping locally.
“I think a lot of people bought a lot of our Bulldog merchandise to go to the bowl game, and a lot of maroon apparel was sold by us,” Sherman said. “Sweaters seemed to be really big gift-giving items. That’s what people not only wanted to give to others, but it was also one of the main things people asked for, we found.”
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, Foster said, several authors have come in for book signings, leading sales of their books to accelerate. She said these guests included Neil White, author of “Mississippians II” and “Mississippi’s 100 Greatest Football Players of All Time;” Nancy Dorman-Hickson, co-author of “Diplomacy and Diamonds: My Wars from the Ballroom to the Battlefield;” Stuart Vance, author of “Aviation in the Golden Triangle;” and Sid Salter, who appeared with Jack Cristil to sign copies of “Jack Cristil: The Voice of the Bulldogs.”
Meanwhile, Foster said, despite the recent release of the movie “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part 1,” sales of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series spiked early in the season but fell as Christmas drew closer. Book Mart also received dozens of orders for cakes from its bakery, Foster said, and “Elf on the Shelf” was among the most popular children’s books.
“We ran out of that a couple of times, but we still had more in stock,” Foster said.
Summerford said some of the most popular brands at Reed’s were The North Face and TOMS, including TOMS Eyewear, a new product line unveiled at Reed’s and 89 other locations across the U.S. in June.
“TOMS does a great job at promoting all their products, so yes, we did see great sell-through (on the eyeglasses), but TOMS in general is one of our very strong brands,” Summerford said.
Each of the stores is also planning end-of-year clearance sales. Foster said there is a clearance rack of Bully Shop clothing marked down 50 percent, and Summerford said Reed’s in Columbus is holding a winter clearance. Sherman said he intends to wait about one more week before starting his clearance.
“We’ll give people time to swap their merchandise,” Sherman said. “We don’t want our inventory to be depleted to the point where we can’t make a swap for somebody for size or color.”