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Busy shopping days ahead for Mississippians

Ho, ho, ho — charge it

Mississippi retailers are gearing up for the Friday after Thanksgiving kickoff to the holiday shopping season with plenty of incentives for consumers. But while many

people believe it’s the busiest shopping day of the year, it isn’t even in the top five.

“You always hear that the day after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day, but it’s not,” said Lynne Green, marketing director of Sawmill Square Mall in Laurel. “It’s

the day that officially kicks off the holiday shopping season, so maybe that’s why it’s perceived as such.”

According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, the Friday after Thanksgiving was ranked No. 8 among busiest shopping days of the year in 1998, No. 7 in

1997, and reached No. 5 in 1996. The Saturday after Thanksgiving ranked No. 9 that year, the only year in the reporting period (1993-1998) for a Friday and Saturday

after Thanksgiving to make the top 10.

The most popular shopping days fall in December.

However, the traditional Christmas season kickoff weekend sparks a buying frenzy routine, and the race is on to become the shopper’s first stop.

“We try to do everything we can to get people to make this their first destination,” said Susan Marquez, marketing director for Northpark Mall in Ridgeland. “We’re doing

a gift with purchase, and with $250 in mall money, we’re giving away singing and dancing Santas while supplies last.”

To encourage heavy spending, Sawmill Square Mall will pay for lunch for the first 100 customers between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. that spend $75; will give away a $10 gift

certificate for the first 100 shoppers between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. that spend $150; and will give away a $250 gift certificate for the first 100 shoppers between 6 p.m. and 9

p.m. that spend $250.

Many malls also set up community service projects for shoppers that want to spread holiday cheer.

“This year, we’re collecting non-perishable canned goods for the Community Stewpot from 8 a.m. to noon at the main mall entrance, with our Teen Board members

collecting the food,” Marquez said. “With donations, shoppers can register to win a shopping spree, too.”

With the economy slowing down, retailers aren’t quite sure what to expect at the cash registers, Marquez said.

“There’s no way to predict,” she said. “Nationally, we’re reading stories that sales will be great. Then we read other stories that indicate sales will be down.”

David Meadows, manager of Turtle Creek Mall in Hattiesburg, said even though a small increase in sales is projected this holiday season, many new tenants — and nifty

amenities — have been added.

“By December, food court tenants can expect the installation of Skytron, a national large screen mall network. Skytron delivers programming on four-foot by seven-foot

HDTV tri-screen displays suspended from mall food courts,” Meadows said.

Restaurants benefit from a surge in sales, too. At Bravo! in Jackson, owner Jeff Good will be luring Highland Village shoppers inside for “hot toddies” of every flavor.

“With the cold weather upon us, Bravo! will be the perfect ‘port in the shopping storm’ on Thanksgiving weekend,” he quipped.

Mike Cashion, executive director of the Mississippi Restaurant Association, said the holidays provide an opportunity to showcase the food service industry.

“As the day after Thanksgiving marks the official start of the Christmas shopping season, it marks the start of one of the busiest times of the year for restaurants,” he

said. “As restaurants fill to capacity during the weekend, many will seek to increase traffic during the week by offering specials to weary shoppers. For those that are too

pressed for time to sit down and enjoy a relaxed meal, most restaurants will eagerly provide meals to go.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com or (601) 853-3967.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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