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Published: Tuesday, 7/4/2006

Area retailers expect blast of holiday spending

BY MARY-BETH McLAUGHLIN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
The Andersons store near Franklin Park was one place where customers bought July 4 grilling supplies. The Andersons store near Franklin Park was one place where customers bought July 4 grilling supplies.
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On a typical summer weekend, Dean Tucker estimates, he sells 300 to 400 pounds of fresh-made hamburgers at the K & J House of Meats store he manages.

Yesterday morning, he predicted that the west Toledo site would sell 1,000 pounds of the grilling favorite for the cookouts that will be held in honor of today's Fourth of July holiday.

Add the 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of steak he expects to sell, plus the thousands of pounds of the store's 16 types of sausages, and it's no wonder Mr. Tucker expects to have 30 employees on hand today behind the narrow counter at the store.

"This and Memorial Day are the two big holidays, so I'm expecting we're going to get slammed," Mr. Tucker said.

His prediction is probably right on target, according to the latest survey of the National Retail Federation, which found the number of people who are cooking out for this most American of holidays jumped to 60 percent from 49 percent last year.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the number of hot dogs to be consumed today at 150 million, the equivalent of one frankfurter for every two people.

In addition, 91 million people will celebrate the nation's commemoration of its independence from British rule with fireworks or a community celebration, up from 77.7 million last year, the retail federation found, and 22.9 million people plan to travel or take a vacation, up from 18.6 million in 2005.

"For many, the Fourth of July is the most anticipated celebration of the summer," said Tracy Mullin, president and chief executive of the trade group.

And what's a holiday celebration in America without flags, fireworks, and some retail therapy?

The retail group reports that nearly 112 million consumers own an American flag. Wendy Beallas, one of the owners of Flags Sales & Repairs on Summit Street in Toledo, said this week that business was brisk as shoppers sought to upgrade.

A lot of customers got bunting last year to decorate their homes but this year, business has been strong for standard flags, which cost $20 to $50, she said.

"We started getting busy on Saturday when people were getting their flags out for [today] and said, 'This needs to be replaced,' " she said.

Flags have been big sellers in recent days at The Andersons store in the Woodville Mall, but they're just one of many items that have proved popular, said manager John Kowalski. Customers there also stocked up on salads, lunch meats, grilling supplies, wine, and beer.

"We've even been selling decks and swing sets because people think the four-day weekend is a good time to get a project done."

The Census Bureau reports $211 million worth of fireworks was imported last year, and $15 million worth was exported. John Miller, owner of Miller Fireworks in Springfield Township, said there's a simple explanation for the popularity of the pyrotechnics.

"This is a pretty big holiday for anyone who believes in their independence," he said.

He ships year-round to dealers across the country, but his retail business at this time of year averages $75 to $100 per customer for those seeking a backyard celebration.

But residents hoping to buy fireworks today should know that Ohio residents have 48 hours to take the fireworks out of state and non-residents have 72 hours.

The only exceptions are sparklers, trick noisemakers, and novelties.

Residents wishing to have a fireworks show for guests on private property must get a permit, and an Ohio licensed exhibitor must conduct the show. Violations are subject to jail and fines.

In Michigan, fireworks permitted to be set off include most sparklers, cone and cylinder fountains, snakes, and smoke devices. Violators face criminal penalties.

Contact Mary-Beth McLaughlin at

mmclaughlin@theblade.com

or 419-724-6199.



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