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Clocks ticking down to the holiday season

ALBANY HERALD EDITORIAL: Retailers are hoping for a successful Black Friday weekend

With the exception of kids on Christmas Eve and new year’s revelers a week later, there may not be any more clock-watching than what is going on today around the country.

For a great many Americans, a four-day weekend that will plunge them headfirst into the holiday season starts just as soon as they can clock out from work today. For an estimated 43.4 million Americans, the Thanksgiving holidays will include trips at least 50 miles from home, an expected 38.9 million of those travelers taking to U.S. highways.

An even bigger group will be waiting for the famous Black Friday sales to begin, with many stores creeping that opening into the evening hours of Thanksgiving. Armed with the biggest newspaper of the year — still Americans’ favorite method of navigating the hundreds of sales that are going on and finding the best deals — they’ll be participating in what is often the biggest sales weekend of the year.

The National Retail Federation estimates that 140 million Americans plan to shop over the holiday period. While that’s down about 4.7 percent from 2012’s 147 million shoppers, it’s still more than three times as many people as will be traveling over the long weekend. Nearly half of those 140 million shoppers — 49.1 percent — will scour newspapers for information about sales events.

Retailers, no doubt, are anxious about the short shopping period this year. Thanksgiving is as late as it can be in November, which cuts down on the number of days between the holiday and Christmas. November and December sales can comprise anywhere from 20 percent to 40 percent of their annual sales. With the lingering effects of the partial government shutdown and gas prices edging upward, businesses are hoping shoppers will get in the holiday mood in a hurry. This week’s burst of cooler weather may help with that.

In Georgia, retailers are seeing some signs for optimism, the Georgia Retail Association reported Tuesday.

“Consumers appear to be shaking off some of the bad news from Washington D.C. The federal government shutdown this fall had an impact on consumer confidence, but we remain cautiously optimistic that most retailers will see an uptick in holiday sales,” Georgia Retail Association President Rick McAllister said. “Retailers overall could see about a 3 percent average gain in sales, which would represent a healthy increase.”

We hope the optimism is well founded. A healthy retail trade means more and better jobs, which in turn mean a better standard of living. We also hope that shoppers will take the time to drop by as many locally owned businesses as possible. Doing business locally benefits the community in a multitude of ways.

The clock is ticking down. Let’s hope when the new year dawns, we all have a reason to smile.

— The Albany Herald Editorial Board