Stores gear up for the holidays

As the DOW drops along with consumer confidence and spending, local retail stores are pinning their hopes on a good holiday season or, at the very least, not a terrible one.

Local stores are beginning to offer sales, and hoping that customers will begin to look locally, as customers' willingness to spend dwindles with each new economic report.

Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce President Marty DeLaney said local chambers offer support to their members year round, but particularly during the holidays.

Like all the local chambers of commerce, we continue to offer support to our members " talking to them, making suggestions, steering them towards a variety of advertising opportunities, doing weekly 'e-bursts,' keeping them in touch with each other through leads groups, all the things we usually do " only more of it," DeLaney said.

Chambers offer other kinds of support, too, she said.

"Sometimes moral support and working together is the biggest help," said DeLaney. "We sponsored a talk last month by a financial expert about the economy and its future, we promote mixers where businesses bounce ideas off each other, we brainstorm everyday in person and on the phone with our members to come up with new suggestions to help, and most importantly, we listen to local business people."

The Consumer Reports National Research Center has reported that most consumers have yet to begin their shopping this season, which translates to high hopes for the official kickoff of holiday shopping the day after Thanksgiving: Black Friday.

Consumer Reports says the percentage of Americans planning to make the trek to the malls on Black Friday is up over last year, and that they are mostly eyeing home electronics. Of those polled, 85 percent of Black Friday shoppers said they intend to buy TVs, DVD players, home-theater systems, and other such merchandise. It represents a 15 percent increase over those who planned to purchase similar items last year, according to the report.

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