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Holiday sales start slow, but local merchants hopeful

A random check of some Gloucester and Mathews businesses on Tuesday showed overall business off at many, but most merchants were hopeful that the Christmas shopping season will help buffer them during a relatively bad year.

Meanwhile, a sampling of shoppers found that many were planning to spend about the same as last year, with many looking for bargains and practical gifts.

In Mathews, several merchants said they benefited from the Open Studio Tour last weekend, which brought locals and out-of-town guests into the community to tour and shop. Also, several shopkeepers said that they benefited from the first Small Business Saturday, a shop local event launched to buffer the Black Friday mega-store promotions.

"It was a very busy weekend," said Karyn Austin, owner of Dilly Dally Emporium on Main Street, Mathews. Big sellers included "a lot of holiday décor," she said, as well as educational-inspired toys and jewelry.

"A lot of people said they ca...

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