Christmas shopping season kicks off early in downtown Macon

Karen+Hix+of+the+Macon+Arts+Alliance+hangs+ornaments+that+will+be+featured+in+their+Homemade+Holiday+Sale+during+the+November+First+Friday+in+downtown.

Liz Fabian

Karen Hix of the Macon Arts Alliance hangs ornaments that will be featured in their Homemade Holiday Sale during the November First Friday in downtown.

The COVID-19 pandemic might have killed off warm weather business in downtown Macon but sales are expected to heat up this holiday season.

NewTown Macon’s Bethany Rogers recently told the Downtown Macon Community Association that holiday sales are expected to be as good or better than 2019. People have been holding onto money and not taking spring or summer vacations.

“People are ready to spend and ready for some normalcy,” Rogers said. “There is opportunity to capitalize on that in the days ahead.”

When briefing the downtown merchants on holiday shopping forecasts, Rogers relayed information from a Google survey that showed 66 percent of shoppers plan to be hitting more local small businesses this year.

The uncertainty about the pandemic also means stores must have online sales options available as web orders also are expected to increase, she said.

“Shoppers want to minimize in-store shopping time and plan to use online stores to browse inventory and make gift decisions prior to their shopping outings,” Rogers advises. “Be consistent and strategic with your digital marketing because your customers are spending more time online and doing more research.”

NewTown Macon’s Emily Hopkins wants to help downtown businesses reap the benefits from the 70 percent of surveyed shoppers who said they will shop earlier to avoid crowds, and the 80 percent of shoppers who plan to consolidate shopping to make fewer trips than in the past.

For the November First Friday, businesses are encouraged to host a Holiday Preview Party and stay open a couple hours longer to catch those who work until 5 or 6 p.m.

“Have your inventory ready to go and do things like create a festive atmosphere if you have a few decorations to put up even if you’re not ready to do full-fledged Christmas,” Hopkins told Tuesday’s Downtown Macon Community Association online meeting.

This wooden biplane is an example of some of the handmade gifts available for purchase at the Macon Arts Alliance during their Handmade Holiday Sale during the November First Friday in downtown. (Liz Fabian)

Just hours later, workers at the Macon Arts Alliance were getting the First Street gallery ready for this festive First Friday which includes their homemade holiday sale.

“Come by, have a glass of wine,” said Karen Hix of the Arts Alliance. “We will offer ornaments and gifts in all types of media – wood, ceramic, glass and fiber – so I encourage you to get out, be safe, wear a mask and we’ll take all kinds of precautions.”

Since many of the traditional holiday craft shows, such as Christmas Made in the South and Mistletoe Market have canceled, artist Mark Ballard also will have a pop-up shop at Seventh Street Salvage on Second Street this Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

NewTown also is helping downtown businesses get ready for Shop Small Saturday on Nov. 28.

Merchants and restaurants are encouraged to extend hours and host sidewalk sales and food and drink specials the day after Black Friday, which is when the Downtown Christmas Light Extravaganza kicks off. The Macon City Auditorium will serve as a holiday hub for Saturday shoppers with an event called “Wine and Pine.”

Peyton Jeter, Director of Marketing for Spectra which manages the county’s Centreplex operation, explained that flights of Georgia wine will be sold and three wreath-making workshops offered during the last Saturday of November.

Spectra’s chef also will be putting together a list of appropriate wines for holiday meals, she said.

Children will have a craft-making area and a complimentary gift-wrapping station will be available at the auditorium.

“We’re working with some small businesses that don’t have storefronts so they can set up and have a little pop-up so folks can shop with them,” Jeter said.

Information about other downtown specials and sales will be available that day at the Shop Small Saturday headquarters in the auditorium.

Hopkins believes that local entrepreneurs will get an unexpected boost during this year of the coronavirus.

“I think a lot of folks are going to be intentional about supporting local, independently-owned businesses, so we’re really excited about that partnership and wine flights and wreath making.”

Contact Civic Reporting Senior Fellow Liz Fabian at 478-301-2976 or [email protected]