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Merchants optimistic about holiday shopping

Black Friday, the traditional beginning of the Christmas shopping season, begins on Thursday this year, as retailers attempt to get this short holiday shopping period off to a good start.

Thanksgiving falls this year on Thursday, Nov. 28. That’s the latest possible date for Thanksgiving (always celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November) and it means the Christmas shopping season will be six days shorter.

Major retailers are starting their Black Friday sales on Thursday evening. The Walmart store in Paris will open at 4 p.m. Thursday with a sale beginning at 6 p.m. and another starting at 8 p.m. Rodney Brewer, manager of the Paris Walmart store, said the deals that will greet consumers Thursday are really good.

“Honestly, as far as deals go, this is probably the best Black Friday I’ve seen in the 16 years I’ve been with Walmart,” Brewer said. “We have lots of good items and lots of good prices.”

Overall, Brewer and other local retailers are optimistic about a good shopping season. Nationally, predictions are somewhat mixed.

“I’m expecting a very large crowd at this store when Black Friday opens,” Brewer said. “I expect we’ll be a lot busier and it will be a lot better than last year,” Brewer said. “Last year was a great year as far as holiday shopping.”

And that means, for Black Friday at least, go early. Last year, the opening of Black Friday at Walmart saw long lines and very few open parking spaces.

Other retailers in the community echoed Brewer’s prediction of a good shopping season.

“I expect strong sales, really,” said Scott Snow of Scott’s on the Square. Snow made his prediction as shoppers flooded his store for Sunday’s annual Paris Area Chamber of Commerce Merchant’s Open House.

“Today has started really strong,” he said. “We have a new owner and new products. We expect a strong month.”

The new owner is Bonnie Harmon, who bought the business in late October.

John Wells of Wells Furniture and Mount Magazine Gifts of Paris, said he’s seen a pick up in business after a weak October.

“Hopefully, it’ll continue into December,” Wells said. “We’ve actually had some pretty good months this year but then October came along and it was just dead.”

Brewer said the hot Christmas gift items this year will look very familiar to consumers.

“It’s going to be toys and electronics,” he said. “They’re the big things again this year.”

Although local retailers are optimistic, a Gallup Poll released last week showed that this shopping season may be flat overall or just barely better than last year.

Based on results of the poll, conducted Nov. 7-10, the average American consumer plans to spend about $704 on Christmas gifts this year, compared to $786 based on a poll conducted in October. The $704 average spending is $66 below what consumers said they planned to spend this time last year.

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