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‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year ...’

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(BCR photo/Lyle Ganther)
Sisters Kelsey Wood of Princeton and Katie Meaker of Springfield look in their shopping bags at items they bought during Small Business Saturday at Annie's Little Pots in Princeton, one of the many Princeton business participating in the annual event.

Christmas shoppers hit the stores in force this weekend with the start of the holiday shopping season. An estimated $59.1 billion was spent nationwide in holiday shopping. Area stores held promotions and specials to entice shoppers to spend their dollars locally.

On Monday, Princeton Walmart manager Dave Jensen said this year’s shopping crowd seemed to be a bit larger than last year. Walmart offered its specials at 8 and 10 p.m. Thursday and again at 5 a.m. Friday. Electronics continue to be the big drawing card for Christmas sales, he said.

Looking ahead to the remainder of the Christmas shopping season, Jensen said he expects the shopping to remain fairly steady with the typical increased shopping during that last couple days before Christmas. Weekends remain the busiest shopping times as more people are off work.

With the first weekend of holiday shopping completed, Jensen said the crowds were good, and people seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Christmas shoppers were also encouraged to support their small local businesses this past weekend as part of the national Small Business Saturday promotion.

On Monday, Princeton Chamber of Commerce Director Kim Frey said Small Business Saturday appeared to be a big success in Princeton. There was a lot of store activity and shopping traffic in town. It seemed people were taking to heart the mission of Small Business Saturday, which is to support their local small businesses, she said.

Princeton has participated in the national Small Business Saturday for the last three years, Frey said, adding each year the number of shoppers seems to increase, and it’s been great to see people becoming more and more aware of the need to support their local small businesses.

On a personal note, Frey said she was not only a promoter of Small Business Saturday, but she was also a participating shopper. She was out bright and early Saturday morning and got some Christmas shopping done of her own.

Two of Princeton’s small businesses participating in Saturday’s promotion were Zearing Computer Tech Inc., located at 950 N. Main St., and Good Scents Ltd., located at 504 S. Main St.

Lou Zearing, owner of Zearing Computer Tech Inc., said his store had a pretty good day for Small Business Saturday and Christmas shoppers. He offered a 10 percent discount on most items for both Friday and Saturday. He also expanded his open hours a bit on Saturday. The traffic was pretty steady throughout the day, he said.

Looking ahead, Zearing said he would expect things to be fairly calm during the next couple weeks with store traffic to pick up again the last couple weeks before Christmas with the traditional late shoppers.

On Monday, Good Scents Ltd. owner Eileen Wright said Small Business Saturday was a good start to the holiday shopping season.

“We had a very good day with lots of local people staying here in Princeton to shop locally,” Wright said. “We had a lot of friends come into the store. We call our customers our friends because that’s what they become to us. I feel blessed that we are still here and that the local people, as well as our friends from out of town, are still here for us.”

According to the National Retail Federation, a record 247 million shoppers visited stores and websites during the four-day weekend, which started Thanksgiving, up 9.2 percent of last year.

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