De Soto missing out on holiday boom
Plenty of tinsel, trinkets and gift tags headed out the door Monday at De Soto's downtown Dollar General Store, but that was about the only indication in town that the holiday shopping season has arrived.
"I think everybody went to Target and all those places -- they weren't in De Soto, that's for sure," said Dott Stephens, who owns De Soto Flowers and Gifts across the street.
Traditionally, the weekend after Thanksgiving sees the biggest shopping sprees of the year, and many nationwide retailers enjoy record-high sales. But in a small towns like De Soto, where retail stores are anything but numerous, most residents make other plans.
In fact, the flower shop, 33045 W. 83rd St., wasn't open Friday or during the weekend, Stephens said. They didn't expect people to come looking for gifts until after the first of December.
Sara Ritter, executive director of the De Soto Chamber of Commerce, said the city was better endowed with services than gift-selling venues.
"Obviously, most of the retail dollars that the community spends are outside of De Soto," she said. "We don't have as many retail businesses as other communities do, and that's why the chamber always encourages people to shop locally when you can."
Ritter said De Soto's lack of stores, however, is counterbalanced by the city's convenient location between larger retail areas.
"In a way, it's a negative," Ritter said of De Soto's retail situation. "But in another way, to the community, it's a positive that we still have those options."
Dollar General, 33080 W. 83rd St., began extended holiday hours the day after Thanksgiving. Store manager Deon Johnson said about 20 percent of her inventory gets replaced with Christmas items and extra toys during this time of year.
Johnson said her holiday customers started small.
"A lot of my knick-knacks are going out the door," she said. "They haven't really gotten into a lot of the toys and stuff yet."
Monday's shoppers filled their baskets with items like wrapping paper, tinsel, scented candles and gift tags. Johnson said sales typically increase as Christmas gets closer.
For shoppers looking for more than what's offered in De Soto's few retail stores, the town's location between Lawrence and Kansas City becomes a big plus.
Most residents report they don't mind driving to take care of their Christmas lists; metro-area malls are the most popular target.
De Soto resident Hugh Buhlig said his family usually traveled to Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, The Great Mall of the Great Plains in Olathe, or Cabela's in Kansas City, Kan.
"When you move out here you realize that there's not much out here," Buhlig said. "You just have to figure that you're 15 minutes from anywhere."
Donna Longaker agreed, giving kudos to the combination of De Soto's quiet, rural atmosphere and convenient location.
"I'm not afraid to travel," she said. "I like it out here because you're out, but you have everything within a half-hour or so."
Another popular spot for year-round shopping is the Shawnee Wal-Mart Supercenter at 65th Street and Shawnee Mission Parkway.
"I know when I go in there I see people from De Soto all over the place," said Mattie Davenport, who lives in Kansas City, Mo., but works at the U.S. Post Office in De Soto.
Some shoppers said they frequented the Target and Wal-Mart stores in Lawrence but enjoyed the city's downtown shops for more unique gift hunting, too.
Both Buhlig and Longaker said mail-order catalogs were another relied-upon resource for their families.
De Soto resident Allison Chambers said if she couldn't get it in De Soto, she was more likely to mail order than anything else during the Christmas season.
For Chambers, short-term sales and holiday hype at large shopping centers isn't worth fighting the crowds.
"I avoid the mall at all costs," she said. "I will not go to the mall after Thanksgiving at all -- I'll pay full price."