Two years after the retail industry suffered the worst holiday performance in more than 40 years, several organizations are projecting a better season in 2010.
ShopperTrak announced in October that according to the company's retail sales estimate, sales are expected to increase 2.9 percent over last year during November and December. Meanwhile, the National Retail Federation announced in a news release that it is projecting a 2.3 percent growth.
ShopperTrak also estimates a 0.1 percent traffic decline during the same period, meaning shoppers.
Kim Griffiths, owner of the Plaid Giraffe in Johnstown, places an ornament on a Christmas tree in the store Wednesday.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
Pat Garnier, the manager of the Plaid Giraffe in Johnstown. said the holiday shopping season is off to a good start.
"We're very hopeful that it's going to be a good season," she said. "We've already had some activity and are looking forward to more."
Deborah Auspelmyer, president of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, said the organization is "cautiously optimistic about this year's holiday shopping season.
"We're really stressing the importance of shopping local," she said. "Black Friday is usually the measurement, so we'll know more at the end of November."
Wally Hart, president and chief executive officer of the Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said predicting what the holiday shopping season will bring can be as arbitrary as tossing a coin.
"We're certainly going to do everything we can to encourage local shopping and ask people to think smart about spending money," he said.
To that end, the chamber will continue its ongoing Chamber Check program. Checks for various amounts are purchased from the chamber and can be used at any participating chamber member.
Hart said chamber membership has increased this year and there are more members participating in the program than ever before.
Auspelmyer said the key to getting shoppers to spend their money locally is through making sure they know what is available in the area so they don't feel like they need to spend money on the Internet or at malls in neighboring counties.
"I think people don't always know what's available here in our community," she said.
In Fulton County, the chamber plans to help educate the public on what is available in the area through its giftfinder program. Anyone looking for a certain kind of gift can call the chamber and it can tell the shopper where the item can be found. If it can't be found among the chamber's membership, then the chamber gives the caller a small Chamber Check.
"Last year, we only gave away one Chamber Check because we couldn't find a product with our members in the region," Hart said.
Amy Lanzi, owner of the Chatterbox on Route 30 in Amsterdam, said she is hoping for a "bustling season." The store sells gifts, clothing and accessories.
"People still want to look nice and still want to get gifts for someone," Lanzi said. "Clothing is reasonable and people love shopping in small shops and supporting the local area."
Lanzi said the Chatterbox has the advantage of being in Montgomery County's largest shopping district. People may come into her store before going grocery shopping or after going to eat in one of the area restaurants. She said the main things local shops can offer is "unique" items.
"The big stores have hundreds of one item and I think people don't want someone to have the same item they have," she said. "We carry four pieces or six pieces of an item, so it will be pretty unique."
Garnier said holiday business at the Plaid Giraffe, which sells home decor, candles and other gift items, has been growing every year.
"If you sell a good product, people come back," she said.
She said the store will run specials throughout the holiday season to keep the customers coming into the store.
"We sell things below the cost of what it would cost on the Internet," Garnier said. "And we give good service."
Mike Zummo is the business editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.