Texas retailers forecast a strong shopping weekend amid strengthening economy

A handful of shoppers wait outside Best Buy at I-35 and 51st Street on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. (KXAN/Chris Davis)
A handful of shoppers wait outside Best Buy at I-35 and 51st Street on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. (KXAN/Chris Davis)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Retailers Association is predicting a big season for businesses big and small as the holiday shopping season officially kicks off this week.

That’s despite a slow start to Black Friday for stores in the shopping center at Interstate 35 and 51st Street in north Austin. Metal barricades lined the front of the Best Buy there, but just a handful of people waited behind them for the store to open. A few people shopped at the other stores in the strip mall, but the parking lot was empty for the most part through the traditional early-morning retail rush.

George Kelemen, president and CEO of the TRA, said the forecast looks strong for big box stores. “The economy’s good, consumers are ready to spend, and retailers are ready to provide them what they need,” he told KXAN this week.

Kelemen also expects this year to be good for smaller, local businesses, who in recent years have started merging a digital footprint with their brick-and-mortar storefronts.

Precision Camera and Video in Austin takes advantage of the big crowds expected through Friday and the weekend. Sales manager Mike Luxenberg said like the big box stores, they rely on sales to drive revenue that they rely on in the early part of the holiday shopping season.

“Most of our business is derived through people coming into the store,” Luxenberg said. “I think they see a great value in interacting with our salespeople and learning about the product before they purchase.”

The store sees two to three times as much business on Black Friday weekend as a normal weekend, he said, and they’ve seen increases in foot traffic in recent years. Having an online presence drives sales, not through their website, Luxenberg said, but by bringing more people through the doors.

That’s one of the keys, Kelemen said, to a successful weekend for local businesses.

“The ones that do a great job find a way to connect with those consumers and customers of theirs in multiple ways,” he said, “the traditional mailers, but also online, through social media.”

The TRA expects to see an uptick in total dollars spent this year, as the shopping season continues to start earlier. Some sales had already been drawing people to stores for a couple days as Black Friday approached and many will continue through the weekend.

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