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Christmas Commerce

Well, the Christmas season is definitely in full swing around our area. My barometer is always the traffic on the Golden Strip and how many folks are getting their Christmas tree at Tebbs on Four Mile Drive. Robin and the ladies have the place looking better than ever! I love the new sign; the pre-drilled trees are always a plus. There’s nothing worse than a tree that leans right or left, especially after it’s fully decorated.

While we’re on the subject of Christmas trees, a couple questions popped into my head last week. First was a local story about a shortage of Christmas trees in our area. Now, I do not doubt that somewhere there might be a lack of fresh cut holiday spirit, but come on already, right here in the West Branch Valley there are more beautiful trees than Rudolph can shake a hoof at. I often wonder as I watch or read the news where the creation of these stories began. Next thing I thought of was, I wonder if it’s more environmentally friendly to put up a real old-fashioned, pine-tar-on-your-hands, brown-streak-on-the-ceiling Christmas tree, or to go the artificial route with one that can be used for several years? There’s nothing like the fresh smell of a pine tree during the holiday season.

Obviously, I know what the tree huggers would want you to believe, but the Christmas tree industry is a great way to promote planting and ecology. They can also be recycled into mulch, which last I knew was environmentally friendly. What do you do with all the artificial trees when they out served their usefulness?

Have you put up your tree yet? Good luck! I hope you find the perfect tree and all your lights work for the entire holiday season! And as far as that tree shortage, I think you’re safe.

As far as that traffic on the Golden Strip, an estimated 174 million Americans shopped between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Black Friday sales actually begin on Thanksgiving Day due to the changing face of retail sales. The love of this time of year cannot be overstated for retailers large and small. Over 30% of total retail sales for the calendar year occur between Black Friday and Christmas. This is where the numbers get interesting to me.

Retail sales were up, four to eight percent depending on where you looked, over last year during this period. For the third straight year more Americans shopped online than beating feet to the store. Over 58 million went the e-commerce route, while 51 million actually shopped in stores. A further look at the numbers shows 64 million Americans shopped both, which is most popular with today’s younger generations. The American consumer that hits the store and electronic device spends almost $100 more than the shopper only using online or store visit purchases.

What does all this mean in the economic world of today? One thing that is obvious to me is that the Walmarts, Targets and other large retailers that have combined in-store sales with online sales are knocking it out of the park. And their profit numbers prove that.

There has been much written and speculated about the future of malls in our country, especially our own Lycoming Mall. On a recent visit in early November, I counted over 20 storefronts unoccupied. Of course, Macy’s, JCPenney, Gander Mountain and shortly Sears have fallen by the wayside. All were long time drawing cards for Mall shoppers. Bon-Ton is on thin ice and imagine if Dick’s Sporting Goods were to relocate?

On the positive side, I believe there is a resurgence in shopping downtown and in the local communities around our area. Our area is very blessed to have a wide variety of family-owned merchants. They work hard and provide great products and outstanding customer service. Many small business owners now offer online sales and service to meet the demands of today’s world.

Please pass on the Christmas shopping tradition of getting out and about within your local communities. The sights, the sounds, the joy of the Christmas holiday season all while you’re getting a little exercise and not preoccupied with an electronic device. And of course, you have to stop at one of our outstanding local eateries and break a little bread. That’s my favorite part of holiday shopping!

After you eat, take a little ride and check out Candy Cane Lane one of our area’s unique holiday traditions. The good citizens of Duboistown do a great job and always find themselves on the “Nice List”. While you are on the South Side, you may as well grab a Blizzard at Dairy Queen for a little dessert.

Shop local, buy local, support your local communities. The importance of this in today’s world could never be overstated. This includes those trips to the local Walmart, Target or big store of your choice. They all provide a livelihood for local folks.

As far as that traffic on the Golden Strip, please let’s all be careful out there people! It doesn’t seem to matter where I’m driving, they’re more distractions than ever. Back to electronic devices, they seem to be the number one culprit. Unless it’s Santa Claus calling, it can wait.

God Bless America.

Jim Webb

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