Beaufort County stores ready for last-minute Christmas shoppers

gsmith@islandpacket.comDecember 18, 2012 

With less than a week to go before Christmas, area retailers are busy ringing up orders and prepping for a last-minute crush of shoppers.

Sales are going well at Walmart's Pembroke Drive store on Hilton Head Island, according to company spokeswoman Debbie Wishon.

Cellphones, including the iPhone and Samsung; iPads; laptops; and digital cameras are proving to be hot items. For kids, tablets, Legos, Barbie and Furby are selling well, she said.

At Target in Bluffton, Dec. 21-23 is expected to be one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year, said company spokeswoman Jenna Reck, adding the store will offer several last-minute sales on electronics and toys to entice shoppers.

But some experts say the holiday shopping season is likely to be only moderate.

"In the southern part of the country this year, consumers are even more cash-driven than the rest of the country," said Britt Beemer, chairman of the Charleston-based America's Research Group that surveys shoppers across the country every week to track spending trends.

"They have not been spending more than they have to. They've been avoiding their credit cards and staying within their budgets because they don't want to fall back into that credit card hole. That's bad for retailers."

For sales to be robust, retailers will have to offer great savings and deals, he added.

"(Consumers) have only shopped when they've gotten great deals. That's why you saw the long lines on Black Friday," said Beemer, who speculates that holiday spending will rise only 1.8 to 2 percent nationally compared to last year. November sales nationwide were up only 1.6 percent, in large part because of Black Friday sales.

Beaufort County had nearly $294 million in gross sales last December and nearly $167 million in net taxable sales, according to the S.C. Department of Revenue. Data for the current holiday season will not be available until February.

Shopping appears to be brisk in downtown Beaufort, according to LaNelle Fabian, executive director of Main Street Beaufort, USA, an organization that promotes local businesses and events.

Its 123 members -- most of them retailers -- do not report holiday sales figures to the association, but Fabian said anecdotal evidence points to a good holiday shopping season.

"The cars are lining the streets and people are walking around," she said.

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