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Retailers brace for shopping scramble

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GREENFIELD — It seems the cautionary tale from the popular holiday film “A Christmas Story” has been lost on many local families.

Small rifles, like the one longed for by the film’s leading character, Ralphie Parker, remain one of the most popular purchases of the holiday season at Greenfield’s Highsmith Guns.

“A lot of dads come in to get their kid’s first gun,” said Shane Highsmith, of Highsmith Guns. “They’ll get their kid’s first rifle around this time.”

With just one full week of holiday shopping left before Christmas, local retailers say sales have been steady, but many are bracing for a rush next week.

Shane Highsmith runs Highsmith Guns, which recently moved to a larger location on north State Street, with his father Mark. Shane said sales are up about 30 percent to 40 percent over non-holiday times.

Gift cards are the best-selling item, he said.

“A lot of women know their husband or their kids like guns, but they don’t know exactly what kind,” Highsmith explained.

Like most downtown merchants, Highsmith Guns is hoping to reap the benefits of what analysts say will be a slightly better year for holiday shopping.

The National Retail Federation estimates spending during this season will rise to an average of $749.51 per shopper, up slightly from $740.57 spent last year. The NRF said shoppers this Christmas season continue to spend conservatively.

Gloria Holloway, owner of Red Ribbon Antiques, said she’s seen a mix of busy and slow days, but overall sales have been down compared to past Christmases.

She’s hoping her annual Christmas specials, which mark down items throughout the store between 10 percent and 30 percent, will help bring in more shoppers.

“We always have a special,” Holloway said. “But we’ve had some slow spells. It’s down this year.”

Sales have been slow and steady at J.W. Riley’s Emporium, save for a couple of peaks around Thanksgiving and at last weekend’s downtown Christmas festival.

Booth renter and employee Marica Anderson said the store was open late the night of the festivals. Store owners were pleased with traffic and sales after the event, which aims to get residents spending more time in the downtown area.

Popular takeaways from the Main Street antique store have been holiday items and gifts, like glassware, Anderson said.

“The vintage Christmas stuff is going really well,” she said.

Time is running out, even for last-minute shoppers, which is exactly when Karen Maslek said things usually pick up at Andree’s Florist.

When it gets to be too late to find the perfect gift, shoppers turn to fresh flowers, Maslek said.

“People realize they’re out of time and (fresh arrangements) are a great last-minute gift to give,” Maslek said.

Right now is the calm before the storm, Maslek said, when employees prepare arrangements. They’ll be adding fresh flowers to as many as 50 holiday-themed arrangements for stragglers next week.

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