Holiday shopping season off to roaring start

By Ed Brock

Marti Peterson, part owner of the Plum Tree in McDonough, says the holiday shopping season is off to a roaring good start – at least for her business.

"I've already sold nine pieces of furniture," Peterson said. "The customer's comment is if I don't buy it now it won't be there."

Peterson and her husband Peter have been operating their antique store near McDonough's square for nine years. Nearby at Chafin Furniture Sally Chafin said the Christmas season is a big sale period for them as well.

"Every man wants a new recliner for Christmas," Chafin said. "I'm hoping that this year we'll certainly see an improvement over last year."

Chafin said she's also expecting the same traffic problems they have every year on the square.

Other economic experts and business people in Clayton and Henry counties are also hopeful that this year's shopping season, considered to have begun this past weekend, will be good.

"All the reports that are coming out now are showing that the economy is starting to turn around," Clayton County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Shane Moody said.

At least, none of the chamber's members have expressed concern, Moody said. A good shopping season helps the county by providing more sales tax income, Moody said.

However, the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax approved by Clayton County residents in September that will fund road improvements and the construction of six new recreation facilities will not go into effect until January.

But other local option sales taxes are in effect in both counties and the more sales that occur, the more tax that is raised.

The signs of an economic upturn are there, Morrow City Manager John Lampl also said.

"It's always nice to have a little upturn in the economy when Thanksgiving is coming," Lampl said.

Thanksgiving this year is Nov. 27 – meaning there will be only 26 shopping days from the big Friday until Christmas.

Morrow is home to Southlake Mall and numerous other retail stores that feed off nearby I-75. The mall still has an empty space where the Macy's department store used to be, Lampl said.

Negotiations are still under way for filling that space.

"I'm still very hopeful and things look very positive," Lampl said.

Henry County has been lucky in that it has continued to be one of the fastest growing counties in the Atlanta area even during the economic slow-down, Henry County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kay Pippin said.

On the other hand, the county is home to many airline employees who have been hit hard by the downturn.

"I think everybody's ready for the recession to be over," Pippin said. "It has dug its feet in and stood its ground a lot longer than we expected."

Things have been picking up at the Tanger Outlet Center in Locust Grove, Pippin said, and they see about 3.5 million a year.

The season is also off to a good start at the Geranium House, a gift and monogramming shop that has been a neighbor of Peterson and Chafin's shops on McDonough's square since September.

"We already had our first Christmas open house and it was phenomenal," said Heather Smith, one of four partners in Geranium House.

They'll have another open house on Nov. 16, Smith said.