The 2020 holiday season is going to be different, but North Carolina retailers are in excited anticipation, and the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association (NCRMA), along with its 2,500 retail members across the state, encourage consumers to #ShopNC this year.

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The Thanksgiving holiday typically ushers in the official start of the holiday shopping season however, given the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, retailers are adapting their strategies to ensure they are serving customers safely and effectively. Some are choosing to close on Thanksgiving Day; others are offering several months of “Black Friday” deals; and others will be featuring the same deals both in-stores and online throughout the holiday season to allow consumers to spread out their shopping.  

According to the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics, consumers surveyed said they would spend, on average, $998 which is up slightly from spending last year.

Consumers plan to purchase items such as gifts, food, decorations, and other holiday-related items with the bulk of their spending going towards gifts for family and friends.

“North Carolina retailers are excited about this holiday season,” said Andy Ellen, president and general counsel of NCRMA. “For our independent retail store owners in small town North Carolina, the holiday shopping season is an important time, this year especially. For many of them, holiday sales will help them finish the year successfully. Additionally, there are many stores that were closed for weeks and are struggling to recover from the shut down and they are anxiously awaiting customers to return to shop.”

Ellen encourages consumers to shop local businesses, saying, “their commitment to their communities, where they live and operate, is strong and deep, and we hope shoppers will visit brick and mortar stores not only because of their excellent staff, superior customer service and the specialty products they provide, but also to give back to their communities, by keeping their money local.”

Ellen also addressed shopping safely in stores this holiday season.

“The main concern for all retailers has and continues to be the health and safety of their employees and their customers. Since the onset of the COVID-19, retailers have made wide-ranging changes in their operations with safety in mind. They have incorporated social distancing procedures and worked tirelessly to keep stores open, shelves stocked, and carts sanitized. Many have shortened hours to institute stringent cleaning processes.

Retailers need your help both economically and with compliance to safety requirements. We ask you to be patient with retailers and their employees as you go out to shop in the coming days and weeks, as they continue to navigate these unprecedented challenges. Please wear a mask or face covering and be considerate if you are asked to do so when you are shopping. Also, we can’t all know the reason another customer isn’t wearing a mask, such as due to a health condition, so be kind to each other.”

Gift cards remain the most requested item on wish lists, as they have been for more than ten years, but will be the second most purchased gift item behind clothing and accessories. Books, music, movies, and video games are also popular items on shopping lists this year. Gift cards are an excellent option this year as it will support retailers now and provide an opportunity for recipients to shop when they feel safe to do so.

Ellen advises consumers to be sure they are taking precautions to buy legitimate gift cards. The primary way to ensure you are getting a gift card that is the correct value and will work when you gift it, is to buy from a reliable source.

Also, discount gift cards (sold below value) are tempting but be aware that they may have been compromised.

For instance, they may have been stolen or exchanged for stolen goods. Gift cards are a great gift to give and receive but be smart and keep them secure.

“I hope North Carolina consumers will support the local businesses that support what they care about in their community – their schools, their youth organizations, their Food Banks, and employing their neighbors,” said Ellen. “These are the brick and mortar stores, both independent and chain, who are engrained in every community across the state who, along with employing one out of every four North Carolinians and collecting the sales taxes that fund our roads and schools, also sponsor the little league team, high school band and school spirit night. This holiday season we encourage you to return their goodwill and support your local retailer this holiday season.”

The North Carolina Retail Merchants Association (NCRMA) is a nonprofit trade association organized in 1902 to improve the business climate for retailers in North Carolina. Over 100 years later, NCRMA remains the voice of the retail industry for North Carolina. NCRMA represents the interests of individual merchants before the General Assembly and serves as a vital link to state government. Its credibility lies in its longevity and commitment to serving the ever-changing needs of its members. The Association’s membership includes more than 25,000 stores from across the state whose business represents 75 percent of North Carolina’s retail sales volume. NCRMA serves both large and small retailers from multi-state chains to local “mom and pops” and all types of merchants including antique, apparel, art, automotive, book, carpet, department, drug, electronics, floral, furniture, grocery, hardware, jewelry, paint and variety stores. For more information, visit http://www.ncrma.org/.

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