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Holiday bounty
Christmas make-it or break-it season for local retailers
new_deh_holiday shopping pic.jpg
For many small businesses, like those in downtown Great Bend, the holiday shoppping season is critical to their success. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

The city is coming off of its annual Explore Great Bend Month in November, with the last Saturday designated as Small Business Saturday. 

According to Community Coordinator Christina Hayes, 26 stores bought in to be part of the $1,000 Explore Great Bend Giveaway. “The idea of this was created by the retailers to help get people to shop local.”

Now, with Christmas only 16 days away, Hayes continues to push this message. “Support our local businesses and explore the great items we have right here in town.”

Hayes said stores have reported they are starting out a little slow for the holiday season.

“The winter weather on the weekends has not helped push people into the stores, it’s just been very cold.” But that’s why the Great Bend stores start encouraging November shopping with the Explore Great Bend month promotions, she said.

“However, stores are hopeful and fully stocked with great items and gifts here in town.”

“We want to emphasize that you give a local merchant a chance,” former retailer and community supporter Mark Mingenback said. The public perception is that larger cities and e-commerce suck business way from small towns, but local merchants sell more than their merchandise.

Christmas shopping by the numbers

Last year, the National Retail Federation reported $691.1 billion total consumer spending during the holidays, up 5.5 percent from 2016. Online spending grew at an even faster rate, with a 11.5 percent year-over-year increase. If history holds, the 2018 holiday season will be another record-breaking year for shopping.

According to a study performed by the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend more money on gifts in 2018 than they did last year. Gallup reports that adults estimate that they will spend approximately $885.

But, while U.S. retail sales are expected to climb 4.1 percent, e-commerce spending will rise 16.2 percent, reports E-commerce will be increasingly driven by mobile commerce, which is expected to jump 32.6 percent and will account for 44 percent of holiday e-commerce spending.

So, with big sales in big cities on Black Friday and big sales online on Cyber Monday, small town businesses can get lost, Hayes said. The NRF notes that 20 to 40 percent of yearly sales for small and mid-sized retailers take place within the last two months of the year, making the holidays crucial. 

“The Christmas season is extremely important for local stores,” Hayes said. “Sometimes it either makes or breaks a year, or until Christmas, a store cannot break even on the books.”

Selling relationships

One way to measure this is to look at total sales tax revenues collected by local retailers. December sales tax collections are received by the city in February, so this year’s information won’t be available for a couple months.

However, a glance back through 2013 shows a spike in revenues in the at the end of the year, particularly in December. In 2017, the total was $179,352.89, with the next highest month being August at $170,317.22 (the total for the year was about $1.9 million). 

This doesn’t tell the entire story, Mingenback said. Scrolling through the sales tax collections month by month may not show large fluctuations come the fourth quarter.

But, the figures are for all retailers, he said. For some sectors of the economy, earnings stay constant year around, but for some, the big burst comes in December.

“Most merchants now that are in business are selling a relationship and service wrapped around that transaction,” Mingenback said. This is absent from online or big store purchases.

“People seek relationships. They expect assistance and service,” he said. “The answer is build a friendship with that customer.”

The bright side? Even though digital sales are increasing, 90 percent of U.S. retail sales are projected to occur in brick and mortar stores. 

“We have fantastic stores and they try to work together to not provide the same thing,” Hayes said. “I definitely encourage everyone to check out the great small stores we have here in Great Bend. Not only are you contributing to local families but you are helping grow our commerce and sales tax by shopping local first.”

As he’s traveled around the state, Mingenback said Great Bend has a good reputation as a regional retail hub. But, it is important from an economic development standpoint to further develop this “pull factor,” which generates more sales tax and helps alleviate other local tax burdens.

A national effort

This year marked the ninth Small Business Saturday, an annual celebration of America’s small business community. Last year on Small Business Saturday, Americans spent a combined $12 billion at independent neighborhood retailers and restaurants. 

“America’s 30 million small businesses reflect the unique character of their communities and Small Business Saturday is a day for consumers to support the local retailers that make their towns and cities special,” said U.S. Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon. “When Americans shop at small businesses, they are supporting economic activity and job growth in their neighborhoods during this holiday season.” 

According to the SBA, about half of all American workers are either employed by a small business or own a small business. And two out of three new jobs are created by small business.

Holiday gift giving 

Did you know that Christmas dinner is more important to most Americans than Christmas presents? That 17 percent of consumers hate buying gifts for their significant other? Or that some people plan to spend more on themselves this holiday season than on others?

Those are just a few of the holiday sentiments revealed by’s 2018 Holiday Shopping and Gifting Survey. The website polled 1,000-plus Americans to learn about their plans for the upcoming holiday season, and the results gave some interesting insight to the fun side of the holidays.

Here is the breakdown of the survey:

The worst gifts come from the in-laws

Speaking of unwanted gifts, those are most likely to come from the in-laws. Nearly one-fourth of respondents say that in-laws are the worst gift-givers in their families. They are also the family members Americans most dread shopping for.

Who gives the worst gifts in your family?

• Your in-laws - 24 percent

• Your siblings - 19 percent

• Your grandparents - 14 percent

• Your friends - 14 percent

• Your significant other - 12 percent

• Your parents - 12 percent

• Other - 5 percent

Who do you dislike shopping for?

• Your in-laws - 24 percent

• Your significant other - 17 percent

• Your parents - 17 percent

• Your siblings -16 percent

• Your friends - 14 percent

• Your grandparents - 7 percent

• Other - 5 percent

What gift are you most likely to return?

Clothing is the most likely gift to be returned

Americans say that, by far, the gift they’re most likely to return this year is clothing. Meanwhile, other items like tech and toys are far less likely to get returned. This makes sense, as clothing must not only fit the recipients, but match their tastes.

The numbers are:

• Clothing - 46 percent

• Toys - 17 percent

• Shoes - 13 percent

• Recreational items (hoverboard, bike, etc) - 13 percent

• Houseware - 13 percent

• Tech - 10 percent

• Other - 2 percent

Americans care more about the holiday feast than about presents

The overwhelming majority (73 percent) say they’d nix the presents, but only 27 percent would sacrifice the Christmas feast.


Most shoppers shop sober

Few shoppers will be making drunk purchases online after imbibing in Hot Toddies, eggnog and other holiday beverages. Still, 18 percent do say they’re likely or very likely to shop while under the influence:

How likely are you to shop online after drinking this holiday season?:

• Very likely - 12 percent

• Likely - 6 percent

• Somewhat likely - 10 percent

• Not at all likely - 72 percent

Most aren’t stressed out by holiday shopping

Perhaps it’s the ability to shop conveniently online for most purchases, but most Americans aren’t sweating the shopping aspect of preparing for the holidays. 

Shopping and stress

How stressful is holiday shopping for you?:

• To a great extent - 10 percent

• Somewhat - 23 percent

• Very little - 26 percent

• Not at all - 40 percent