FOLEY — The Alabama Retail Association projects holiday spending this year will reach $18.74 billion – an increase from last year's $18 billion. Although growth is expected, it's only a small percentage due to another interest rate hike and government budget uncertainty.

Prices of items are higher, and retailers hope to make the best of a challenging time.

The Consumer Price Index in the South increased 3.7% yearly through October. While Alabamians have felt the pinch, they are still opening up their pocketbooks for the holidays.

Karen Hamilton, the manager of Hot Topic at Tanger Outlets in Foley, said sales have improved this year.

"Definitely we've seen an increase in sales and foot traffic for sure," said Hamilton. "We did phenomenal for Black Friday. We pretty much have something for everybody."

Hamilton said it is important for consumers to show support in brick-and-mortar stores and not always rely on the internet.

"For sizing, it's important to shop in the store instead of online so you don't have to guestimate, and you can actually try it on," said Hamilton. "But don't you just want to see it before you buy it?"

Supporting local stores is something chambers of commerce across the state are sounding the alarm on.

"Shop our local retail stores or buy gift certificates from our service industry businesses," the Springville Area Chamber of Commerce posted on Facebook. "Think outside the big box store or online retailer and see how you can make a difference this year in our small businesses."

South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce president Donna Watts said hardworking Alabamians providing goods and services deserve the business. Watts said those small businesses are what keeps Alabama going strong.

"In South Baldwin County, one of the attributes that makes our communities so attractive to visitors and to residents alike is the uniqueness of the small businesses, family-owned and often family-run business that we have here," Watts told 1819 News. "It creates a unique flavor of its own for our citizenry and our guests."

"Small business is certainly the fabric upon which the economy of Alabama and particularly Baldwin County is woven with," she continued. "Without small business, I shudder to think what would happen to our economy."

"The stores down the street or around the corner support your community in big and small ways daily," said Alabama Retail Association President Rick Brown. "By shopping with retailers based in your community or our state, you contribute to the health of your local and state economies."

Whether shoppers choose unique, small-town boutiques or chains like Hot Topic, Alabama is open for business. Store managers who spoke with 1819 News believe that shopping will continue to increase this Christmas through the end of the year.

"We have those people who wait for the very last minute, and that's when the chaos comes, but we love it," Hamilton said.

While spending hasn't decreased, the Alabama Retail Association said consumers are shopping smarter and searching for early deals.

"The stores down the street or around the corner support your community in big and small ways daily," said Alabama Retail Association President Rick Brown. "By shopping with retailers based in your community or our state, you contribute to the health of your local and state economies."

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