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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The holiday shopping season is underway across Alabama, and the outlook for small businesses this year is positive.

The Alabama Retail Association estimates the state will see about $18 billion in holiday spending this year, a 5% increase from last year.

Small businesses like Apropos Accessories in Montgomery are getting ready for the season.

Terri Owen has been selling jewelry and other unique gifts at her shop for 36 years. Owen says while COVID caused a slowdown in business, she’s optimistic about this year’s sales.

“We have had fortunately an up year. We’re up over last year which we really hoped for because with covid things of course took a dip,” Owen said.

She says end-of-year sales make up a big chunk of her annual revenue.

“They’re probably 30% of the year at least, maybe 40,” Owen said.

She expects this year to at least match last year’s numbers or exceed them. Apropos is one of 7,000 members of Alabama’s chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business.

NFIB State Director Rosemary Elebash says shopping local can go a long way in supporting business owners, many of whom are still experiencing workforce and inventory shortages.

“When you spend a dollar in a community, then 67 cents of that dollar stays in your local community, so you really are reaping the benefits for shopping small,” Elebash said.

Elebash encourages anyone to visit their local stores and also participate in small business Saturday next weekend.

“You walk in the door, and they know your name, and you get great customer service. I’d just encourage people to shop local and shop often,” Elebash said.

According to the Alabama Retail Association, Alabamians spent 15.4% more during November and December 2021 than they did during those months in 2020 — the highest holiday growth rate the state has seen.