OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - This Christmas shopping season, Americans spent $620 billion, an increase of just over four percent from the year before. That's good news for small business owners, who claimed a good chunk of that holiday cash.
At Bayou Belle, it was a good shopping season. Going in, expectations were not that high.
"We were hoping for a better year, which we always hope for a better year, so we were pleasantly surprised that it was substantially better than the year before," store manager Anna Baker said.
Finding the right spot also helps. Tri-Hard Sports recently moved to downtown and that made for a good year as well, according to business manager Tiffany Lowery.
"Our location has improved and we get a lot more walking traffic," Lowery explained. "So in addition to the economy improving, we have a lot more people that know our location."
People also love to pamper their pets, and Two Dogs Dancing had its best year since 2010. What were customers buying?
Store employee Elaine Gipson pointed to the little fleece pullovers for dogs. "Also, the ornaments that are specific breeds," she said. "Some are little nutcrackers and they sell all year round."
In the highly competitive retail environment, promotion is the key. That's what happened at Hillyer House, which Madison Talley manages.
"This year we really tried to amp up our sales with a lot of special events in the store, a lot of visiting artists, and special promotions," Talley explained. "We did like fun giveaways every day, so this year was more about interacting with the customer."
Sometimes, Christmas promotions don't go just exactly as planned. In the case of Shelton Jewelers, they handed out $400,000 worth of gifts cards into the community.
Owner Cathy Shelton-Reed said afterwards, "We had an 18 percent increase in the cards that were returned, but our sales were down 20 percent. Obviously, people were relying more on the gift card promotion than buying higher ticket items."
But at least in 2014, they were buying something.
Business owners downtown also credit Cruisin' the Coast and the Peter Anderson Arts Festival for helping make the year a profitable one.