SALISBURY – While browsing downtown stores in the days leading up to Christmas, Lesleigh Drye was encouraged by what she saw.

“It was good,” said Drye. “I felt like every store I went to was crowded and it was very refreshing to see people come out and enjoy downtown.”

Drye is co-owner of Caniche, a boutique and gift shop located at 200 S. Main Street that sells clothing, accessories, candles, speakers and various items. Like many other downtown business owners, Drye is at the end of what she has described as a “big” holiday shopping season.

“We have increased our sales over last year,” said Drye. “People intentionally supported and bought local products.

Drye isn’t the only downtown store owner to have had a promising season. Dennis Lunsford, owner of the Kitchen Store at 106 N. Main St., was also thrilled with his store’s December sale.

“We had a really strong Christmas, which we always seem to do because we’re a Christmas type store,” Lunsford said.

Lunsford attributes the strong holiday season in part to consumers having more funds to spend on gifts.

“There was a lot of disposable income and people were definitely spending it,” Lunsford said.

Drye attributes the strong shopping season to consumers feeling safer than in 2020, as more people stayed at home and shopped online before a COVID-19 vaccine became widely available.

“I think people are just in a better place and I think a lot of people, at least the people who come here and are comfortable going in here, are vaccinated and feel pretty safe,” said Drye.

Emily Pangle, manager of 3 jem’s store at 102 S. Main St., said the store continues to see its online presence and sales thrive during the holiday season. However, she also observed a noticeable increase in foot traffic to the boutique stores in Salisbury and Kannapolis in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Consumer convenience and increased disposable income are some of the reasons accounting firm and professional services firm Deloitte forecast a 7% to 9% increase in vacation sales in 2021 compared to the same. period in 2020.

Bob Potter, who owns and operates the Salisbury Wine Shop with his wife Stephanie, has seen his Christmas numbers increase this year as people hold larger gatherings again. Potter said sales were up 15% in December from December 2020.

While several factors likely led to a more robust holiday shopping season, downtown store owners believe one element was continued pressure to support local businesses.

“Certainly there are a lot of people trying to buy local,” Lunsford said. “I’ve noticed it more in recent years than before. “

Pangle noticed a similar feeling among 3 jem’s customers.

“People tell us when they come in that they want to buy local,” Pangle said. “It’s something that people just started because they wanted to support the local and once they started supporting the local they realized how much they appreciated it. “

Other trends have emerged or continued this holiday season, including shoppers shopping earlier.

Deloitte’s 36th annual Holiday Retail Survey, which included more than 4,000 U.S. consumers and 30 executives from the nation’s largest retail companies, also predicted that the average shopping time is expected to expand. over six weeks.

This was because 75% of consumers surveyed were concerned about stockouts and delivery delays, motivating them to start shopping earlier.

“I felt like people were shopping earlier,” said Drye. “Maybe it was imposed by the media, which was legitimate. I’ve had more salespeople than ever telling me this year that there won’t be any new orders so I think people were listening and trying to shop a bit earlier.

Drye said it was a constant battle over which of his orders would arrive in time for the shopping season and which orders would be stranded in ports.

“I’ve heard 1,000 times that it was either on a ship or in port, but the supply chain issues were real,” said Drye.

Lunsford was fighting a similar battle. Expecting some of its typical suppliers to run out of merchandise, Lunsford began ordering earlier this year.

“In June, I was running around and looking for different vendors to buy from,” Lunsford said. “Everyone knew what was going to happen and it works when every sales rep tells you they’re going to miss it. “

Pangle said 3 jem were also dealing with back orders and stockouts, but was able to resolve issues without much hassle. The store, she said, is used to staying nimble as it introduces new clothes every week.

Despite the challenges of keeping shelves well stocked, downtown business owners said they were happy and grateful for the success they have enjoyed over the past few weeks.

A good holiday season is essential for the long term sustainability of many small businesses. According to a report released by VISA in 2020, 69% of small businesses in the United States say the winter holiday season is a major sales opportunity for their business.

“I wouldn’t be in business without a really strong Christmas,” Lunsford said. “I wouldn’t be here. And that probably goes for a lot of retail stores. If you can’t hit a home run during Christmas, that won’t happen to you.

Potter said the holiday shopping season is by far the busiest time of year for Salisbury Wine Shop.

“For us, we’ll be doing almost three months of activity in the month of December,” Potter said.

A successful end to 2021 has the optimism of downtown store owners as the New Year approaches.

Potter said he expects Salisbury Wine Shop to continue to be busy until February, which is typical due to Valentine’s Day business. The boutique will also soon host several tastings to expose customers to new types of wines.

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