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story.lead_photo.caption Southbank Gift Company owner Jill Bednar decorates a Christmas tree Tuesday at her High Street shop as Bednar and her team are getting ready for small business Saturday this week. Photo by Sally Ince / News Tribune.

Retailers around Jefferson City said they are thankful for a healthy economy as the holiday shopping season kicks off this weekend.

Stores now offer a myriad of promotions on countless platforms, but big and small local retailers said the Thanksgiving weekend still marks a yearly milestone for their businesses. With low unemployment in Jefferson City and a growing economy nationwide, local retailers said consumers are more likely to spend disposable income this holiday season.

About 164 million people will shop from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, the National Retail Federation, a retail industry trade group, said in a news release. Holiday sales in November and December are expected to increase between 4.3 and 4.8 percent from last year to $717.45 billion to $720.89 billion.

Cut-throat sales now begin long before the Thanksgiving weekend and last much further into the holiday shopping season. In recent years, Thanksgiving Day sales also have added to the amount of sales over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Kaitlyn Genereux, general manager of JCPenney at the Capital Mall, said this weekend still marks a critical point in the year for retailers.

"We'll do almost as much Thursday as we do on Friday," Genereux said. "And we'll do double what we do Saturday when we are open Thursday."

David Overfelt, president of the Jefferson City based Missouri Retailers Association, said Thanksgiving weekend brings customers looking for value when shopping. Other shoppers will go out later in the season, he said.

"It's not going to be the biggest (weekend)," Overfelt said. "Closer to Christmas, there will be much bigger days."

For small retailers, Black Friday can be a big day, but Saturday is usually bigger. Jill Bednar, owner of Southbank Gift Company, said shoppers focus on national retailers Friday and small retailers Saturday.

"We always have some specials over the weekend, but our main focus is Small Business Saturday," Bednar said. "That's when people really come out to patronize small businesses."

Ty Austin manages Hibbett Sports at the Capital Mall. Recently, the store completed a renovation that added new sales fixtures, paint and lighting that brightened up the store. The renovation shrunk the sales floor, but added more room to store online-orders for customers who want to pick them up in person.

Hibbett Sports will be open 6 p.m.-midnight Thanksgiving night and 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday. The Alabama-based sporting goods chain began opening its stores on Thanksgiving about five years ago, Austin said.

"Retail stores have to adapt with the times," Austin said. "We've seen a few falter over the past few years, and we have to keep adapting and changing."

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