Small business owners courting last minute shoppers

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - If you're not done with your Christmas shopping yet, there's no need to panic. Last minute shoppers will find many stores open on Christmas Eve, with retailers very anxious to accommodate.

Many local merchants depend on the holiday season for up to 40 percent of their total annual sales. Shoppers hesitant to fight those last minute crowds at the big box retailers, may find that unique Christmas gift at a small business close to home.

"All of us over here really rely on the Christmas holidays," said Pam Fontenot, one of the owners of the "Purple Pelican" gift shop in Pass Christian.

Eclectic may be the best word to describe the store. Where else can you find ornaments fashioned from fish scales or a knife made from alligator bone?

"There are three owners. We all choose our own merchandise. So that gives a variety of gifts that we offer to our customers. And customers seem to like that," said Fontenot.

For those last minute shoppers, the store will be open until 6pm on Christmas Eve.

"People take a lot of pride in their community, certainly in this little community. And they're very supportive," she said.

"We opened May 11th and have been busy ever since," said the owner of Melissa's Specialty Cakes and bakery in downtown Long Beach.

The store has enjoyed a busy Christmas season. Thankfully for her business, people tend to put their diets on-hold and not count the calories while enjoying holiday goodies.

"It's a really good time. We have had lots of people coming in getting cookies and Christmas cakes and whatever they need for the holidays," said Melissa Fisher.

People who "shop local" help boost their town's economy.

"I think it's absolutely important. That's why we're here on Jeff Davis Avenue. We're in our hometown where we're at right now. And it's good for business," said the bakery owner.

Local artisans and craft people keep the shelves filled at Mississippi Made-Mississippi Proud.

"We try to get the most unique items, one of a kind items. And things you can also use every day," said manager, Deonna Carroll.

Popular gifts are Katrina wood cutting boards... spoon holders made from melted Barq's bottles... and hand woven baskets.

"Christmas since Black Friday has been really good. I've been really happy it's picked up finally, because it's been a slow year. So, it's really picked up and I've been real happy with it," said Carroll.

Again, if you're a last minute holiday shopper, you're not alone. One survey shows that nearly one-third of all consumers haven't finished their Christmas shopping yet.

Copyright 2013 WLOX. All rights reserved.