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Merchants give thanks for holiday
Economic slowdown not likely to ruffle turkey day shopping
Thxgiving Food 3 es
Lauren Geer and son Logan, 2, eat plates of Thanksgiving samples Tuesday night at Publix in Cumming. The grocery store likely will see a busy weekend of holiday meal shopping. - photo by Emily Saunders

Local retailers are bracing for a sales drop-off this Thanksgiving, but remain optimistic that the economic downturn won't sour the holiday's deep tradition.

For HoneyBaked Ham, 70 percent of the Cumming location's annual sales come in November and December.

"We've been around since the 1950s, so it's a tradition for a lot of people," said Doug Griffith, manager. "I honestly think it's something that people aren't going to give up.

"Our sales are up right now over last year and so I think even though the economy has done better ... So far, we're not really seeing it. People want to maintain the tradition of always having the HoneyBaked ham on the table."

Thousands of signature spiral sliced hams are made for Thanksgiving gatherings. Business spikes so much during the holiday, Griffith said, the store hires as many as 40 seasonal employees to help meet demand, which only rises at Christmas.

Business could go either way for Publix this year, said spokeswoman Brenda Reid. The grocery store chain is preparing for comparable sales to last year. Its newest store opens today near the Windermere community.

While customers may not splurge on premium cuts of beef, or may go without a few extra sides this year, Reid doesn't expect a turkeyless Thanksgiving at many family gatherings.

"People tend to have smaller gatherings when the budget is tight," she said. "However, a turkey is one of the essential items for Thanksgiving dinner, so I'm not sure we're going to see a decrease in the number of turkeys sold."

Pre-cooked turkeys are likely to remain popular, Reid said.

"This has been a trend moving upward for the last three years," she said. "We have been offering them in our deli department and over the last three years we've seen an increase in the number of requests for them.

"People are looking for ways to save time on putting together their meal."

For families looking to downsize the meal, there are turkey breasts or smaller turkeys.

Publix has been preparing for Thanksgiving since the first quarter of the year, Reid said, giving growers enough time to adjust their inventory for the upcoming holiday.

Officials expect the Thanksgiving rush to begin this weekend. Customers typically make early purchases, then come back a day or two before to pick up the fresh products.

Like Publix, Lanierland Florist will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, but only after a rush to complete dozens of orders.

It's not Mother's Day or Valentine's Day, but Thanksgiving still is a big holiday for the 43-year-old flower shop.

Co-owner Ronnie McCormick said the most popular items are centerpieces.

"We sell a lot of centerpieces for families getting together," he said. "We also sell some silks and table arrangements."

McCormick is not certain his business will fare as well as it has in previous years, but remains optimistic.

"I would say that people probably would buy more items that are needful items instead of things they could possibly do without, but we're still anticipating things to be well," he said.

"And based on the orders we have right now, and what we've already led into with Christmas, things are looking pretty good."