Downtown Hattiesburg shops evaluate after the year's busiest season

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - This holiday season was a key indicator - a gauge that could tell whether the move to pump life into Hattiesburg's downtown is working.

Sales needed to be good, or stay consistent with last year's and - for some - they were.

"As a matter of fact, it's one of the best season that we ever had," said David Sackler, owner of Sack's Outdoors downtown.

"We didn't have time to eat - or drink. We just, we were just busy busy busy," said Joyce Hicks, owner of the downtown boutique Bloom.

But for others - the Christmas customers didn't arrive with the Christmas season.

"We're seeing flat sales for right now. We reduced some prices, we did our best so as to maintain what we used to make," said Jerry Buti of Go Young Fashions, which specializes in men's big and tall sizes.

Just today both Kmart and Sears announced they will be closing stores after holiday sales fell short - an example of how holiday sales can determine the fate of a business - especially a small business.

"You're holiday sales are where you make the majority of your money," said Hicks. "Christmas is your time of sales."

With that in mind, the Historic Hattiesburg Downtown Association launched the 'Shift Your Shopping' campaign in the run up to the holidays. Hoping folks would shift that shopping - right downtown. But they may never actually know if the push paid off.

"Nobody really comes in and says why they're here," said Depot Coffee House owner Stuart Gates.

The tricky thing about gauging the success of downtown by the number of customers is that it's all anecdotal. The Main Street area's sales tax revenue's are lumped in with the whole city's when the state breaks them down - so the numbers won't tell what part of the city sold more.

"But at the same time, it's definitely a bump in December, so I think it can be attributed to a lot of things," Gates said.

So you can only get an idea by going shop by shop - which is sort of fitting in downtown, because there, you just go window by window.

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