Call it a Thanksgiving shopping tradition.
For at least the past decade, Susan Gentry and her mother, Margie Tyree, have spent the days leading up to Thanksgiving scouring the Black Friday ads to plot their shopping game plan.
Then on Friday, sometimes as early as midnight, the pair travel from their home in Northeast Oklahoma to Joplin to put their plans into action. Last year, they included Gentry’s 11-year-old daughter, London, in the fun — making it a three-generation outing. They even got matching T-shirts to mark the occasion.
Other changes this year come as Gentry’s daughter, niece and nephew all inch toward preteen wish lists — fewer toys, more digital items. And Gentry finds herself sticking with paper ads despite early Black Friday ads that are released by retailers online.
“I would absolutely rather have the paper ads,” she said. “Our tradition was to look through the ads on Wednesday as my dad and London made homemade noodles for the next day.”
For those planning a foray into the Black Friday chaos, Gentry offers the following suggestions: “Get your list ready so you know what you are looking for. And when you get to the store, get a map to find out where that item line is.”
Black Friday is only the start: In the next two months, consumers from across the region are expected to come into Joplin to make their holiday purchases, said Erin Slifka, marketing and public information manager with the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce.
While some will shop in the big-box stores, others will check out the small businesses that serve the community.
“They may be looking for a unique gift or a local touch that maybe they can’t find in a big-box retail store,” Slifka said. “It’s super important to us and our community that our area (residents) support local businesses. People take time to provide unique services with a flair, and they are our neighbors.”
A dollar spent in a local business has a sevenfold return on investment, Slifka said. She hopes holiday markets and events will help bring people to town — and once they’re in Joplin, she hopes consumers find things that keep them interacting with small businesses.
“The longer we can keep them captivated in Joplin, the more they will spend in other areas, such as eating in the restaurants, getting gas or going to a store they may not have known about,” Slifka said.
Lori Haun, executive director of the Downtown Joplin Alliance, said the year’s fourth quarter — and especially the season between Thanksgiving and Christmas — plays a significant role in the local economy.
“For many, the fourth quarter is the biggest quarter of the year,” Haun said. “When you shop local and spend money in your community, the money stays within the community.”
She hopes consumers understand how their shopping can affect the community on multiple levels.
“It’s important to make sure to support businesses year-round,” Haun said. “But a lot (of business owners) look to the holiday season to be a big money time. We have a lot of unique and different things offered in our downtown businesses.”
The National Retail Federation estimates shoppers will spend at least $1,047.83 on gifts during the holiday season, with those aged 35 to 44 spending the most at $1,158.63.
Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation, believes those numbers indicate that consumers are in “good financial shape.”
“(They are) willing to spend a little more on gifts for the special people in their lives this holiday season,” Shay said. “Retailers are fully prepared to meet the needs of holiday shoppers looking for that perfect mix of sales, quality and selection.”
According to the national group, consumers will spend primarily in three categories this holiday season: gifts for family, friends and coworkers; nonholiday items such as candy, food, decorations, greeting cards and flowers; and other nongift purchases that take advantage of seasonal deals and sales.
The holiday shopping forecast indicates at least 56% of shoppers will do their shopping online to take advantage of free shipping, store pickup options or same-day delivery.
At least 53% will shop at department stores, and 51% will go to discount stores. Other shopping outlets include grocery stores, clothing and accessory stores, electronics stores and local small businesses.