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Christmas coming early for some retailers

Gregg Bonner, with Friedman’s Clothing, sorts a selection of sports coats in advance of the expected November rush. Many shoppers are buying for Christmas and the holidays even in the early part of October.(Jim W)

Gregg Bonner, with Friedman’s Clothing, sorts a selection of sports coats in advance of the expected November rush. Many shoppers are buying for Christmas and the holidays even in the early part of October.(Jim W)

ALBANY, Ga. -- Holiday gift shoppers might be divided into two basic groups: Those who wait until the last possible moment to buy what they need, and those who want do it and be done with it. Retailers love both kinds, with a special affection toward the second bunch.

According to Aaron Johnson, assistant professor of economics at Darton State College, retail sales for the Albany metropolitan statistical area is up 3.9 percent over this time last year. The Albany MSA includes not only Dougherty County but Lee, Baker, Terrell and Worth counties as well. In addition, retail establishments have added around 300 jobs, which could mean people have more to spend.

"I think it's a fair assumption that from the additional retail hires, that retail is doing better and that shoppers are expected to be spending more," Johnson said.

There's always a little bit of Christmas at Place on the Pointe, according to Store Manager Elyse Brown. Brown said the gift store on Westgate Drive keeps a certain amount of sold merchandise in a special room all year, wrapping it for Christmas when time allows.

"Some of our people don't have the storage space," Brown said, "and they have us keep their things and wrap them later."

Brown said sales at Place on the Pointe typically reflect the Christmas spirit early in October. Their open house is staged on the first Sunday of each November.

"We've been really busy so far," Brown said. "We've been blessed this year."

Ann Roberts and her husband, Chuck, are co-owners of John Ross Jewelers on Dawson Road. Ann Roberts said that while the store is having a good year in 2012, buying schedules have changed since 2008.

"It used to be that our Christmas people began to come in early October, Now the main rush is later in November," Ann Roberts said.

Bruce and Janie Bitterman said it's been a good year for their business, Friedman's Clothing. They say it's improving each year since 2008, when the economy went south.

"We've had a nice little increase this year," Bruce Bitterman said. "Nothing tremendous, but we're pleased."

According to Bruce Bitterman, their first holiday wave comes around 10 days before Thanksgiving with those who want to avoid the crowds. There's another wave, he said, from so-called Black Friday on 'til Christmas.

Backwoods Outdoors, a Lee County store for outdoors men and women, is doing as well as most since hard times set in, said Vicki Keith, shipping and receiving manager. According to Keith, the store is doing better every year. She said that sales start picking up in October and hit a high point on black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

"From then on, it's non-stop," Keith said. "We run great deals through November and December to keep it that way."

Holiday gift sales are heavy in items such guns, camouflage clothing and Columbia shirt are hot. While Keith has no opinion as to when the good times will return, she's happy that as a small business they're "holding their own," she said.

Chuck Knight, with Knight's Appliances on Slappey Boulevard, said the thing that's hot for him right now is the sale and repair of cooking equipment.

"With Thanksgiving coming up, I see I lot of people with elements in their hands," Knight said. "They come in and decide whether they want to have the repairs or just buy something new."

The week before Thanksgiving is always his busiest time, Knight said. For actual Holiday gift sales he's beefed up his TV lines, stocking more small gift-size televisions. Of course, Knight does a sizable trade in various large utility appliances. It's not uncommon for husband and wife to give themselves a washer/dryer for Christmas but wait until the holiday is passed to buy.

"The week after Christmas is one of our best all year," Knight said.