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VOL. 112 | NO. 228 | Monday, December 14, 1998

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By SUZANNE THOMPSON Tis the reason to be shopping Seasonal merchants see mixed message in Mid-South malls By SUZANNE THOMPSON The Daily News If youre in the market for anything from keepsakes to Christmas decor, there is a flurry of activity in the marketplace caused by the appearance of merchants whose businesses depend on booming seasonal sales. Some stores, such as Lindzs and Hickory Farms, open stores especially for the holidays to market their wares. Joyce Lindsay started Lindzs in 1982, when she had opened a store in Jackson, Miss., and a seasonal outlet in Memphis. She now has several locations that operate year-round and also continues to open seasonal locations. Her store at Hickory Ridge Mall usually varies in size because the company takes a temporary lease on whatever space is available. "Weve had big stores, small stores, medium-size stores," she said. The challenge is coming up with fresh marketing ideas and supplying the merchandise quickly enough, Lindsay said. A major challenge this year in running the companys 16 locations is finding workers. "With the labor market so low, its been difficult finding enough people to run the stores," Lindsay said. Lindzs is fortunate, though, to have several store managers who only work during the holidays and work for the company every year, she said. A host of other vendors set up kiosks or counters in malls to try to make the most of the Christmas market. The Glass Gallery, begun by glassblower George Ottensmeyer as a garage craft business, operates in malls across the South. Although the company distributes its merchandise wholesale all year, holiday sales make up a substantial portion of the business, said Sandy Shaw, who manages a store in St. Louis and serves as office manager in the corporate headquarters. "Christmas drives the business," she said. Retail sales have been down this year, partially, she believes, because of the unseasonably warm weather in the South. Warm temperatures give shoppers the false sense they have more time to shop, so they spend their time outdoors instead of inside shopping malls, Shaw said. Sales at some of the local galleries also have been a bit down. Sandra Webb, who works at the gallerys counter at Oak Court Mall, said sales have not been as good as she had hoped so far this season. However, the counter recently was relocated from inside the south entrance to just inside the main entrance, where the counter sees more traffic. "It has been much better," she said. Artist Thomas Murdock, who has a kiosk for the first time this year at Hickory Ridge Mall, said he has not been selling as much as he had hoped. He and his partner chose the southeast Memphis location based on market research and because the mall has just been remodeled and includes a play area for children. He said portrait sales are down from last year, when he sold them from a location in Arkansas. Other holiday vendors report better sales, such as Beverly Mullikin of Ma Joyce Collectibles and Gifts. Ma Joyce carries Lee Middleton dolls, lifelike baby dolls with weighted heads that give the dolls the feel of a real baby. Mullikin went to work in July, earlier than most seasonal vendors, and said sales were good in September but fell off a bit in October. Both November and December sales have been good, she said. However, whatever their current sales, most retailers expect sales to pick up in the final shopping days before Christmas, said Tammy Wilson, manager of a Beanie Collectibles at Hickory Ridge Mall that will be open until Jan. 31. The recent onslaught of cold weather wont hurt sales either. "We pray for rain, or even a few snowflakes," Shaw said. "As long as its not enough snow to paralyze traffic."
PROPERTY SALES 50 389 12,758
MORTGAGES 21 248 8,003
BUILDING PERMITS 295 813 29,934
BANKRUPTCIES 35 164 6,064