|Christmas Walk Brings Shoppers to Oskaloosa|
|Tuesday, 20 November 2012 16:20|
The Oskaloosa Chamber of Commerce says this will be a critical year for an event planned to bring a lot of money and customers into town for the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.
Oskaloosa is planning a Christmas Walk this Saturday. It's the third year for the event at area retailers. Organizers say it's attracted hundreds of shoppers each year from all over southeast Iowa, but they consider the event's third year to be the one that tells whether the success will stick.
Monica Smith of Oskaloosa is checking deals at Kelderman's Radio Shack days before the holiday weekend. She has the intent and cash to buy for her six children.
"We've already started Christmas shopping three weeks ago. We've spent 400 dollars so it's going to be 2-thousand dollars by the time we're done," says Smith.
Smith's son Gavin doesn't have to worry about complex issues such as the economy and how much money is in his mom's wallet. She says she doesn't either this shopping season for this simple reason.
"We have saved enough to make sure the kids have a great year. We were anticipating this and we started saving months ago to make sure the kids got what they wanted," says Smith.
The National Retail Federation expects sales to increase this holiday season by 4.1 percent. That's down from a 5.6 percent increase the past two years. Berry Kelderman says he does 75 percent of his business in the last quarter of the year thanks to the Christmas season. He's concerned his local sales will reflect a possible downturn.
"It's an election year so that kind of changes some things, I think, but I think it will be about the same as last year, maybe even a little less. I think because of the election some people are hanging onto their money," says Kelderman.
But Chamber event organizer, Karen Hafner, says Oskaloosa has a plan to bring shoppers to area stores this weekend. It's called the Christmas Walk - held the Saturday after Black Friday. This year marks the third annual Christmas Walk and Hafner says the chamber hopes to attract more than 350 people. About 300 shoppers participated the first year. The number has been steadily growing.
28 Oskaloosa businesses will offer deals or specials on Saturday between 9 and four. The chamber hands out maps so customers can easily identify the stores. Hafner says social media has helped attract people from southeast Iowa to shop in Oskaloosa.
"We have a little news release we ask them to put on their Facebook," says Hafner.
People like Monica Smith don't need an incentive to spend in the local economy.
The Oskaloosa Chamber of Commerce does not keep track of actual dollars spent in town thanks to the Christmas Walk, but Hafner says her target is about 350 shoppers this year to judge the event a success.
Hafner says people participating in the Christmas Walk can sign up for prizes at each participating business. The biggest prize is 500 dollars in Osky Cash. That's the same as regular cash but can be spent only in Oskaloosa in participating stores. The drawing for that and other prizes will be held the Monday after the holiday weekend.
Saturday is Small Business Saturday, a national event focusing on patronizing small businesses, such as those in Oskaloosa.