Coast residents and visitors were in the mood to shop Thursday and Friday, and small business owners in South Mississippi hope that continues into Small Business Saturday.
This will be the seventh year for Small Business Saturday that encourages residents to shop local and dine local, and the streets of downtown Ocean Springs and Bay St. Louis will be bustling.
The holiday shopping season is already off to a great start.
Edgewater Mall in Biloxi was as busy Friday as manager Terry Powell has seen it since Gayfers department store was in business before it became Dillard’s in 1998.
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Gulfport Premium Outlets had lines Thursday night and Friday.
Edgewater Mall was closed on Thanksgiving, with only the large stores open for Thursday night sales.
Powell said he’ll likely forgo opening on Thanksgiving again next year.
“I think it’s the right thing for the employees,” he said.
Thursday was a “great night” at Gulfport Premium Outlets, with a lot of people waiting in lines for the stores to open, said Rhonda Roberts, director of marketing and business development. Hours are extended through the weekend at the outlets and many of the national chain stores on the Coast.
“The stores have had some really great sales this year,” Roberts said, and with savings of up to 60 percent off at the outlets, people aren’t just browsing but carrying lots of bags.
She said many Louisiana residents who are recovering from the flooding are out shopping. And gift cards that typically are more of a last-minute gift are already popular, she said.
After a night of bargain shopping Thursday, shoppers were back in line Friday morning looking for more deals. Home Depot opened at 6 a.m. and employees served coffee, hot chocolate and donuts to those waiting in line. With temperatures around 60 degrees, it was a more comfortable wait for the doors to open than some years.
Tools, Christmas trees and trains were on shopping lists, but the 99 cent poinsettias were what drew many people out before dawn and filled lots of shopping carts at Home Depot.
Saturday will be more of a holiday celebration. Local stores are beautifully decorated and their staff are willing to help find gifts and sometimes gift wrap for free.
Pav & Broom Fine Jewelry in Gulfport is advertising deals on diamonds for those who plan to get engaged for Christmas. Powell said Edgewater Mall has a lot of locally owned stores.
“Small Business Saturday is extremely important to us as small business owners,” said Lisa Quirch.
She and her sister, Lucianne Damiens, have “The Birds Nest” booth at Vintage Flamingo in Gulfport.
Typically, the antique and décor market on 14th Avenue is open only on the second weekend of the month, but Christmas shoppers will find the booths open Saturday and purchases will be 10 percent off storewide. The store also will be open the weekend before Christmas.
Vintage Flamingo has more than 30 vendors, said Quirch, “and we all have uniquely different stuff,” both vintage and new.
“When you shop local you will find those unique gifts no large retailer can offer,” said Tish Williams, executive director of the Hancock Chamber of Commerce. “Every dollar spent with local merchants revitalizes our community and promotes continued employment,” she said.
“Small businesses make up a large portion of our market in Ocean Springs,” said Cynthia Sutton, executive director of the Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce Main Street Tourism Bureau. “With hundreds of locally owned shops, restaurants, and galleries small businesses generate a large portion of the sales base in Ocean Springs.”