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‘Mistletoe’ helps kick off Mississippi holidays

It is official.

The holiday shopping season has begun. With the coming and going of Jackson’s Mistletoe Marketplace, the race to finding trendy decorations or steals on stocking stuffers is underway. It is rumored that every year the Mistletoe Marketplace is the beginning of Mississippi’s holiday open house season.

Soon enough, streets will be adorned with the various lighting arrangements, and neighbors will greet each other as they neatly decorate their houses and yards with the season’s delights.

Opening its doors on the weekend after Halloween, Mistletoe Marketplace began another year of fundraising and shopping.

From Nov. 5-8, the Mississippi Trade Mart is filled, wall-to-wall, with venders and entertainment for public. More than 35,000 shoppers in search of something for their holiday season spent a few hours of their day strolling down the isles, lined with 165 merchants of various goods. Having reached $10 million since the conception of this event in 1981, the Junior League of Jackson, a non-profit organization, will continue to contribute the gifts and services of its 900-plus members to benefit thousands of Mississippians. Although most people believe their shopping season starts the weekend after Thanksgiving, the Junior League of Jackson’s hard work to maintain their focus, “Providing for Children, Protecting their Future,” is a gift that, in fact, begins the gift-giving season.

After the opening of the Mistletoe Marketplace, many cities throughout the state begin to open their downtown open house events. This year, from Indianola to Gulfport, shoppers can be a part of Christmas celebrations across the state.

These events may include various activities, such as shopping for about anything holiday related, festive music, great eating, and general good times. For more information on upcoming Christmas open house events, contact your local chamber of commerce. Below is a partial list of upcoming open houses from cities and counties that responded to our queries:

• Greenville – Nov. 23, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.: Rivertown Christmas Open House (red banners mark the participating merchants). Contact: (662) 378-3142

• Brandon — Nov. 22, 7 a.m.–2 p.m.: Mississippi Made: A Handmade Holiday Affair. Contact: (601) 754-1779.

• Gulfport — Nov. 28, midnight.: Midnight Madness Pajama Jam. Contact: (228) 867-6100 or (609) 397-4242 ext. 313.

• Indianola — Nov. 28-29, 1 p.m.-3 p.m.: Holiday Season. Holiday Homecoming & Open House. Contact: (662) 887-4454

• Laurel — Nov. 29, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.: Landrum’s Country Homestead and Village “Annual Christmas at the Village” Open House. Contact: (601) 649-2546 or www.landrums.com

• Vicksburg — Nov. 30: Old-Fashioned Christmas Open House. Contact: (601) 634-4527

• Ocean Springs — Dec. 5– 6: Holiday Open House and Christmas Marketplace. Contact: (228) 875-4424

• Natchez — Dec. 5–6, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.: Christmas Open House, downtown. Contact: (601) 442-2929 Fax: (601) 442-2525 www.natchezdowntown .blogspot.com

• Leland — Dec. 6: Christmas on the Creek. Contact: (662) 686-2687

• Greenville, Washington County — Dec. 7, 1:30 p.m.-4 p.m.: Winterville Mounds Museum Christmas Open House. Contact: (662) 334-4684 or Winterville@mdah.state.ms.us

• New Albany — Nov. 28-Dec 23, 6 p.m.–9 p.m.: Christmas in Cottonplant. Contact: (662) 226-1887

• Tupelo — Dec. 5-6: Tupelo Christmas Parade and Santa Loves Red. Contact: (662) 841-6598

• Jackson — Dec. 6: Christmas for the Birds, Mississippi Museum of Natural Science. Contact: (601) 354-7303

• Jackson — Dec. 1: Paws & Claus – Pet Night With Santa, Metrocenter Mall. Contact: (601) 354-7800

• Jackson – Dec. 1- 30: 24th Annual Festival of Christmas Trees, Smith Robretson Museum and Cultural Services. Contact: (601) 960-1457

• Jackson — Dec. 5: Christmas by Candelight Tour and Christmas at the Governor’s Mansion. Contact: (601) 359-6421

• Ridgeland — Dec. 6: Christmas in Our Town. Contact: (601) 991-9996

• Quitman — Dec. 6: Christmas Tour of Homes. Contact: (601) 659-3435 or (601) 659-0349

• Canton – Nov. 28-Dec 23: Christmas in Canton. Contact: (601) 859-5816

Holiday shopping tips
during a tough economy

With gas prices sky high, 2008 online holiday shopping season is poised for fast lane, says Keynote, the global leader in on-demand mobile and Internet test and measurement solutions for continuously improving the online experience. Keynote has recently launched a holiday survival guide for retailers. It is said to be filled with tips, tools, techniques and tricks for delivering a superlative online experience for customers.

Average Cost of Thanksgiving Dinner
Will Not Increase for 2008

Even though the economy is as low as it is, according to the American Farm Bureau, the price consumers will pay for their Thanksgiving feast won’t increase. AFBF’s 21st annual informal survey of the prices of basic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table pegs the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 at $38.10, a $1.32 price increase from last year’s average of $36.78. The cost of a 16-pound turkey, at $15.70 or roughly 98¢ per pound, reflects an increase of 4¢ per pound, or a total of 59¢ per turkey compared to 2005. This is the largest contributor to the overall increase in the cost of the 2006 Thanksgiving dinner. Items that decreased slightly in price this year were: one gallon of milk, $2.93 and a half-print of whipping cream, $1.47.

Saving Money for Christmas
Despite the Economy

According to Kevin Small, a Mississippi financial counselor, there are multiple steps that consumers can take in order to save before Christmas arrives. First, adjust your W-4 withholding. This step can save a few hundred dollars in preparation to Christmas. Instead of a larger refund in March, you will receive a slight margin more than in their current paycheck. Secondly, make less trips to the grocery store; fewer trips means spending less. You can still buy groceries, but purchase larger amounts, and try to cut out impulsive buys. Next, cut out purchasing sodas from vending machines. These will add up, and help put a little more money in your pocket book for this Christmas.

Some Updates for Black Friday 2008

According to reports, the following are some hints for shoppers in their holiday shopping. Apparently, soft line retailers like JCPenney and Sears are going to have great deals on clothes and shoes due to the summer and fall season not going well for them. Next, with the February 2008 switch-over to an all-digital broadcast standard, retailers will be offering bargains on televisions this year. Traditional discounters such as Wal-Mart and Target are, actually, doing well in this economy. Expect early discounting and better deals after Black Friday. Laptop and desktop computers are starting priced at $400 or so. Keep an eye out for $250- to $300-priced options this year on Black Friday. The prices for flat screen televisions are plummeting. Thirty-two inch LCDs are shown at around $350. Larger 50-inch plus 1080p televisions could be as low as $1,100 this year. Blu-Ray prices will drop, as well. The Blu-Ray players could hit as low as $150 for Black Friday, as well as the Blu-Ray movies for around $10. The seven- and nine-inch digital picture frames will dip below $50. The Nintendo Wii and Apple iPhone 3G won’t, however, be on sale, much less in stock. Layaways are making a comeback. The key here is to know where your layaway options will survive the Kmart bankruptcy fears. Stores such as Marshals, KB Toys, TJ Maxx and Burlington Coat Factory will all offer layaway programs. There is always elayaway.com, as well. Some retailers are flirting with survival during this downturn in the economy.

Gas Prices to Help Holiday Sales?

CNBC recently reported that the lower gas prices may provide a lift to what are otherwise predicted to be dismal U.S. holiday sales, although experts say that it will take time for consumers to feel confident enough to resume spending. As much as $30 billion will be returned directly to the consumers’ pockets in the next few months, according to estimates, but the fear of a deep recession and job losses will still have control. On the optimistic side, consumer savings from cheaper energy costs could reach $30 billion, said Craig Johnson, president of retail consulting firm Customer Growth Partners. Many customers are more focused on paying for essentials, not gifts, this season. It is stated that approximately six out of 10 U.S. shoppers are expected to cut holiday spending, and nearly seven out of 10 consumers say that they would wait for store sales, cut back on shopping trips to save gas and use more store coupons, according to a late October survey from Deloitte.

Contact MBJ staff writer Leslie Galloway at leslie.galloway @ msbusiness.com .

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