Downtown sees increase in holiday shopping

Stephanie Backus/FULTON SUN photo: Michael Clay, 18, of Fulton shopped for shoes on Tuesday at Gidley's Shoe Store in downtown Fulton. Downtown businesses said they saw a good turnout for local shopping during the holiday season. Many of the stores are currently holding their year-end sales.

Stephanie Backus/FULTON SUN photo: Michael Clay, 18, of Fulton shopped for shoes on Tuesday at Gidley's Shoe Store in downtown Fulton. Downtown businesses said they saw a good turnout for local shopping during the holiday season. Many of the stores are currently holding their year-end sales.

Some downtown businesses saw an increase in Christmas sales this year. Gidley’s Shoes owner Jody Paschal said he thought the increase was even bigger from shopping in years past.

“People are definitely spending more than they were three years ago during the holiday season,” Paschal said. “I think generally people are spending a little more money. It’s not like it once was, but it seems to be getting better.”

Paschal said he had been told a lot of small businesses took a 30 percent cut to business this year, but more than one downtown business, including his, thought they would break even this year.

“If we can break even and not take that big of a loss, I think we’re on the right track,” he said.

Paschal said he thinks there were more local shoppers downtown this year.

“We seem to have had more foot traffic,” he said. “We have some trendy things, so they don’t have to go to Columbia to find them.”

He attributes the local shopping to the variety of stores in the downtown area.

“We have great customer service, and for a small town, we have a large variety of stores,” he said.

Downtown Fulton houses several stores that carry gift items, including Smockingbirds. Owner Virginia McCoskrie said she saw a small increase in sales this year.

“I don’t know what to attribute it to,” she said. “I have been using my Facebook business page a lot more. I do a giveaway each Friday and try to have it posted by Wednesday. People comment on the photo as their entry into the giveaway.”

McCoskrie said Ladies Night also helped bring in more traffic.

“We did it the first Thursday of each month in October, November and December,” she said. “I think in the past, we’ve had a lot of weather issues with Ladies Night, so there hasn’t been a good turnout. But this year was really good.”

McCoskrie noted an increase in repeat customers as well.

“I am seeing more frequent customers who are trying to shop locally,” she said. “I really do appreciate that. Fulton doesn’t have everything, but we do have a big variety.”

Paschal said downtown store hours don’t always work for everyone, but the Saturday hours can also bring in business.

“A lot of us close at 5:30 p.m., so for people who work out of town, it does not always work,” he said. “But we still get a lot of traffic, and if people call ahead, we will usually stay open for them during the holidays.”

Weather also plays a part in holiday shopping.

“I think we really see weather as a factor,” Paschal said. “If it’s really nice outside, we’re usually dead, but once the first snow/ice storm hits, people start thinking about needing winter items, and they come downtown to get snow boots or scarves and hats.”

McCoskrie said weather played an interesting role in her holiday numbers. For the first time, McCoskrie closed her doors on Christmas Eve because of the impending snow.

“We were traveling out of town and were worried about the weather,” she said.

Overall, Paschal said he was pleased with the amount of people spending money downtown before Christmas.

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