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Local retailers expect big crowds for Black Friday


Kristin Mamrack



Columbus retailers are ready for what they hope is their biggest shopping weekend of the year, and city officials are encouraging residents to shop locally in this gift-giving season. 


"The city benefits greatly from residents and visitors shopping in Columbus, because of the 7-percent sales tax revenue it generates," said Columbus Mayor Robert Smith. "That 7-percent amount goes to the Mississippi Tax Commission and they send us back 18.5 percent. In other words, the city gets 18.5 cents on every dollar generated from sales tax collected within the city limits. 


"In Mississippi, counties get no sales tax, just cities," he added. "And for most towns and cities in this state, sales tax revenue received back from the state represents 40 percent to 50 percent (of the city''s budget). It is about 46 to 47 percent of our budget; that''s our main source of revenue." 


"It''s a well-known fact that every dollar spent locally turns over, or multiplies, seven times," explained Melissa Cook, vice president of the chamber division of the Columbus-Lowndes Development Link. "In other words, seven different entities or individuals touch that dollar and spend it, whether it be on food, gas or whatever. It pumps much needed revenue back into the local economy. This allows local businesses to be able to continue to operate and provide us with shopping opportunities. It just makes sense to shop locally." 


Local retailers, expecting big crowds, are out to prove shopping opportunities abound in Columbus, as they hold big after-Thanksgiving sales this weekend. 


"We expect a big crowd," said Takiesha Prude, manager at Old Navy, noting jeans at the retailer, which is holding a three-day sale, are priced at $15 and up. 


"Our Christmas Open House was so successful that I feel sure we''re going to get swamped," said Gloria Herriott, owner of Hollyhocks Gift Shop, in downtown Columbus. "So, I hired extra help. We are having secret sales, and there will be a lot of in-house specials and sampling of food, so people can get ready for the holidays. 


"There''s a reason they call it Black Friday," she continued, referring to day-after-Thanksgiving sales and noting Hollyhocks will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and every Sunday until Christmas. "It is the day traditionally where we get into the black. That is the turning point for us; fourth quarter is where we actually make money." 


"We expect a good crowd after Thanksgiving," said Sarah Barefield of The Purple Elephant, which also is located in downtown Columbus. "We''ll have a percentage off of our Christmas items, so we expect a good weekend." 


"We expect huge crowds," said Mike Law, the manager of JC Penney, which is in Leigh Mall and will be open from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday. "We''re expecting a good turnout for the weekend, particularly Friday. Everything''s on sale, just about, and we''ll have special prices up until about 1 p.m. (Friday). 


"We feel like it''s going to be pretty similar to last year," he added. "We had a big crowd at 4 a.m. and it usually stays real, real busy up until about 2 p.m. Then, it''s steady for about the rest of the day." 


"We are getting all the merchandise out of the stockroom, into the aisles and the departments," Belk merchandise coordinator Cindy Parker said Monday of the store''s efforts preparing for the big shopping weekend. "We''re double-checking schedules, and we''re all working 14-hour shifts. 


"Hopefully, we will have a great turnout," she said, noting employees of Belk, which will be open from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, will give away Belk gift cards, one of which will be worth a $1,000 shopping spree, from 4 a.m. to 5 a.m. Friday. "Business has been great this month." 


"Usually, we have a good crowd," said Joanne Beaty, co-owner of The Fashion Barn, located in downtown Columbus. "In the past, we''ve had good days on Friday and Saturday (after Thanksgiving) and we expect to do the same this year. We''ll have a good sale and we do offer lay-a-way (plans); we''ve noticed a lot more people using lay-a-way." 


"The greatest inducement in sales for us is a drop in the temperature, so we''re expecting a really great day, since Friday and Saturday are all supposed to be below 60 degrees," said Lex Jackson, manager of Reed''s of Columbus, located off Highway 45 North. "We can''t fight the Wal-Marts, K-Marts, Belks, price-wise, but we have some specials. Basically, we try to have merchandise keyed into what people want." 


"I expect a big crowd," said Linda Stokes, manager of The Shoe Dept., located in Leigh Mall. "We''re opening at 6 a.m. We''re going to have several different shoes, some purses, on sale."




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