Throngs of tourists and shoppers strolled in and out of Christmas on The Strand in the island’s downtown on Friday, the traditional beginning of the holiday season for area businesses.

While the weekend of Dickens on the Strand, Galveston’s annual holiday festival in early December, has historically been the busiest weekend for island businesses, Black Friday is quickly becoming its equal, said Ginger Herter, co-owner of Strand Brass and Christmas on The Strand, 2115 Strand.

“We’ve been trying to eat lunch for three hours now,” she said.

The day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday because that’s traditionally when holiday shoppers pushed retail sales into the black, into profit, although the day has become less the bonanza in recent years as shopping habits have changed, industry observers have reported.

Nationwide, businesses have decried the growth of online shopping leading to fewer in-store shoppers, but local business owners said they haven’t experienced the same trend.

Businesses throughout Galveston County spent Friday hosting crowds of shoppers trying to shop locally while also preparing for the rest of the weekend, which will include Small Business Saturday.

“The holiday season has steadily grown for us each year except for the year after Hurricane Ike,” said Wendy Morgan, who is an owner of The Admiralty at 2221 Strand.

Throughout Galveston County, businesses spent the days before Thanksgiving decorating and setting up to serve the dozens of holiday shoppers they expected in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Sandra Kelly and her daughter, Melissa Kelly, who own Strawberry Hill Unique Upcycling Boutique in League City, helped sponsor a pop-up Christmas market to spur shoppers in Galveston County’s biggest city.

The market is a combination of local artists and crafters, Sandra Kelly said.

“Of course, more people are shopping during the holidays so we have a broader exposure,” she said. “Those customers that shop with us during the Christmas season come back and become loyal customers throughout the year.”

About 20 percent of Strawberry Hill’s bottom line comes during the holiday season, which runs from the fall through Christmas, Sandra Kelly said.

Other business owners agreed with the 20 percent figure.

Sarah Moore Click, the owner of Surf Styles at 2119 Strand in Galveston, went into the store Thanksgiving Day to do some setting up and ended up helping a big group of shoppers for several hours, she said.

“People are going to be here as tourists,” she said. “That’s why businesses have to decorate and be festive — to give people a reason to step into the store.”

After all of the unexpected shoppers Thursday, Click said she planned to open on Thanksgiving officially in 2019.

More than 164 million people are expected to shop this year over the five days beginning with Thanksgiving, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation.

But that number includes those who are planning to do their holiday shopping online, according to the survey.

The shoppers will spend between $717.5 million and $720 million during November and December this year, up from about $687.9 million in 2017, according to the National Retail Federation.

Matt deGrood: 409-683-5230; matt.degrood@galvnews.com

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