In Johnston County, many locally owned stores enjoy an increase in sales during the holidays. But the extra business can prove exhausting and sometimes serve only to pay the year’s bills.
The holiday season, which technically runs from Black Friday through Christmas, means more customers for many businesses, especially retailers with holiday-themed products. But the extra sales can create a challenge as businesses strive to meet staffing and inventory needs.
At DeWayne’s, a gift and garden shop and clothing boutique in Selma, the holiday season lasts for two months and makes up 25 to 30 percent of annual sales. The season starts with a Christmas kickoff after the first Thursday in November and ends the weekend after New Year’s Day, said Tina Lee, co-owner.
Lee said she and her staff handle the holiday traffic the best they can. In other months of the year, store hours are typically 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“This time of year we’re open 9 to 9,” Lee said. “It puts a lot of strain on our current employees, including ourselves.”
Lee and her co-owner husband invest the profits from seasonal sales back into the store. The couple hope to expand the store, so they are saving up. Other dollars go to keep the store up-to-date with new coats of paint and asphalt for the parking lot.
Smithfield City Florist president Dean Wiggs said the holiday season is always busy. But the flower shop also has seasonal spikes throughout the year, such as in February for Valentine’s Day.
At Christmastime, the shop sells poinsettias and centerpieces and even decorates homes for the holidays.
At Smithfield City Florist, the holiday season officially begins with an open house Nov. 1 but really starts in October, Wiggs said. The stepped-up work is exhausting, he said.
“We work 12 to 14 hours a day for the whole months of November and December,” Wiggs said. “We’re here at least that many hours, and our employees have been wonderful about working overtime.”
Holiday sales are high, but so are the expenses, Wiggs said. “You order more,” he said. “You have more merchandise, you have a lot larger inventory at that time, so yeah, you have more expense as well.”.
Springhill Outfitters near Micro, which sells hunting and fishing gear, sees a double-whammy during the holiday season, said Trent Lassiter, general manager. The Christmas shopping season coincides with the hunting seasons for duck and deer.
“This is our tenth year of business, and we have learned from the school of hard knocks,” Lassiter said. “And we’re prepared with extra people and extra products to accommodate the extra business.”
Springhill does 30 to 40 percent of its annual business in November and December, but that doesn’t mean a trip to the Bahamas is in anyone’s future, Lassiter said.
“There’s no such thing as extra money in our type of business anyways,” he said. “We use the money that we make now to pay for the invoices and the bills for products that we sold. In our type of business, we’re going to buying shows the next few months and buying products for next fall.”
Deborah Hackney, office manager at Johnston County Hams in Smithfield, said the store does about 40 percent of its business in November and December. To support the extra sales, the store hires temporary employees – two in production to aid the six year-round employees there and two full-time and two part-time positions for the store. In the other months of the year, Hackney is the only store employee.
“The rest of the year is so slow that we’re just building up throughout the year for these two months,” she said.
On top of ham and turkey, the store also sells gift bags of local products such as jam and candies. Hackney said sales pick up in part because it’s a giving season. But also, the holiday season starts and ends with Thanksgiving and Christmas. “That’s what hams are all about,” she said.