WOODS CROSS – National retailers saw a big boost in shopping and spending on Black Friday Weekend, but Utah residents are more uncertain about business prospects and the economy than they have been in almost two years, according to a report by Zions Bank.
Nevertheless, business organizations and local shops alike have optimism for the 2012 holiday shopping season and beyond.
On Black Friday at Gregory’s Wheat Shop in Woods Cross, owner Linda Coltrin and her husband noticed that people simply aren’t spending as much as they used to, even on heavily discounted appliances. They also noticed other signs of consumer restraint.
“Since the election, people are writing a lot more checks than they used to,” Coltrin said. “That usually tells me that they don’t want to put it on the credit card and they have some money set aside they want to spend on that.”
The wheat shop is among the dozens of small businesses in South Davis that sought to compete with retail giants over the weekend. Despite outside efforts to bring shoppers to their doors, several business owners told the Clipper that their sales over the weekend didn’t increase compared to last year.
One of those efforts was “Small Business Saturday,” a campaign organized by American Express that encourages shoppers to visit local stores on the day after Black Friday.
At The Book Garden on Bountiful’s Main Street, sales on Sat., Nov. 23, weren’t much better than on a normal Saturday, said manager Marie Waldgovel. However, more customers were in the store and many people were talking about Small Business Saturday on social media, said bookstore clerk Tanya Youngberg.
Zions Bank reports that only 75.9 percent of consumers in Utah were optimistic about the state of the economy this month, down from 87.1 percent last month. The bank attributes much of the fall to disappointment about national elections.
“It is understandable for Republican voters to be disheartened by the outcome of the election. Voters let anxieties about the political future of the country negatively influence their perception of the economy in November,” said Scott Anderson, president and CEO of Zions Bank, in a press release. “But, if the economy continues to expand in 2013, the frustration of the election will fade, and consumer attitudes toward the economy should recover.”
Dave Davis, president of the Utah Retail Merchants Association, is also hopeful.
“Small businesses do have reason to be optimistic, with the economy continuing to turn, especially those small retailers that are in the businesses of retailing higher-ticket items like jewelry and electronics,” he said. “We’re seeing a little bit of bump in those areas where in past years, those have been the things that have been the first to go.”
Blaine Smith at The Gem Smith jewelry shop in Bountiful didn’t see a major sales increase in big ticket items over Black Friday weekend, but has been inspired by the support of his customers.
“We did an earring for one guy the other day and he said ‘I’m not going to go to one of the big stores,’” Smith recalled. “Small business is what keeps everything running.”
Buy Local First Utah shares that belief, said Assistant Director Kirsten Lavalett. It is promoting a “Shift Your Spending” campaign that encourages people to spend just 10 percent of their Christmas shopping dollars in local businesses.
Most families will spend about $750 on the holidays, according to a study by Civic Economics. If every family in Davis County would spend just $75 of that locally, the Davis County area would get to keep about $2.5 million of it. If they don’t, just over half a million would stay in the county.
Lavalett has particularly high hopes for Davis County businesses.
In January, Buy Local First Utah is planning to open a chapter here. Member businesses will have their first mixer on Jan. 10. Studies show that in communities where small businesses support one another in formal groups, those businesses make three times more revenue than in communities without that support, Lavalett said.