By STEVEN NALLEY
The Greater Starkville Development Partnership has seen its share in the holiday shopping economy grow over the past few years, and its officials seek to continue that growth starting this Black Friday with initiatives and incentives to keep Starkville’s citizens shopping locally.
Jennifer Gregory, GSDP vice president for tourism development, said there was a time when many of Starkville’s downtown stores were not even open on Black Friday. This year, she said, several Starkville retailers have creative promotions and sales planned for the holidays, and there is indirect evidence that the approach has worked in recent years.
“We don’t have specific data about shopping patterns of local shoppers; however, we saw record sales tax collections for the city of Starkville in the month of December,” Gregory said. “Most (college) students return home for the month of December, so this tells me that, because of an increase in sales tax collections, we either had more visitors shopping in Starkville or we had an increase of Starkville residents shopping locally, or both,” Gregory said. “I’d like to think it was a little of both, and I think our promotions and advertising for Secret Santa and other ‘shop local’ programs really provide an incentive for locals to shop local and to visit our local stores often throughout the holiday season.”
Last year, the GSDP launched Secret Santa, in which Starkville retailers displayed tags with Quick Response codes that shoppers could scan with their smart phones to reveal hidden discounts of 15, 20 or 25 percent. Gregory said Secret Santa will return again this year, operating in the same manner.
“We (had) nearly 500 participating shoppers last year, so we think that was a great success for the first year,” Gregory said. “We also are promoting our retailers outside the Starkville area, and I think it was evident that shoppers traveled to Starkville from around the Golden Triangle beyond to visit our local retailers (last year).”
Austin Shafer, GSDP vice president of membership and the chamber of commerce, said it is crucial for residents to support local retailers who make Starkville unique. Not only do shoppers benefit from local business owners who know their customers and provide tailored shopping experiences, he said, but those who shop local also see benefits that extend long after the holidays are over.
“A locally owned independent business returns approximately 45 percent of each dollar spent back to the community,” Shafer said. “Local, independent businesses assist the community through a ‘multiplier effect’: $1 spent at a locally owned business will return five times that amount within the community through city taxes, employees’ wages and purchase of materials and supplies at other independent businesses.
In addition, these businesses will turn that dollar back into the community through school funding, social services and contributions to local non-profit organizations.”
Gregory said she is grateful for the effort local businesses have made to keep Starkville competitive in the retail economy.
“We have an amazing group of local retailers that work hard to promote their businesses and the whole downtown as a shopping destination,” Gregory said. “That partnership has really paid off, and we’re looking forward to seeing another fantastic month of sales.”