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(From left): Dancers Emma Tinoco, Coleen Kehl and Erika Reed are shown during rehearsal for “BJSO Holiday Pops: The Nutcracker Ballet.”


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Giving the Turkey Trot a shot

ROSCOE—Kat Bartz, Melissa Vander Kooi and Monica Vander Kooi gathered for a family photo Thursday morning before they set out on a three-mile run around the natural prairie trail on the NorthPointe Health and Wellness Campus.

“I came from Milwaukee to do this,” Bartz said, as she explained she convinced Melissa and Monica to accompany her on the brisk Thanksgiving morning run.

They were among about 400 people who gathered for the annual NorthPointe Turkey Trot, which has become a family tradition for many people in the Stateline Area. Many found it to be a good way to work up an appetite before indulging in the family holiday meal.

Hannah Pickard and her sister Amelia Pickard turned out with some friends to run in the Turkey Trot. She said she invited some of her Hononegah High School cross country teammates who have since graduated. She said it was a good reunion opportunity.

“It’s a great time to bond with friends and family every year,” she said.

Gus Larson, campus director of NorthPointe, said there was no Turkey Trot last year, which would have been the 12th annual run, due to COVID-19 restrictions, but everyone was happy to see the run was on again this year.

“Everybody is ecstatic,” he said. “We like it to be a family event, so we have a family photo area where people can snap a photo with our staff.”

Keeping with the Thanksgiving family meal theme, prizes in each age group were food items that could be taken to the family holiday meal. First place winners received a pie; second place winners received sweet bread; and third place winners received a dozen cookies. There also was hot cocoa and cookies offered to runners and spectators.

The runners were asked to spread out and not gather in groups inside the NorthPointe facility before the race as a pandemic safety measure. But, most were just excited to be meeting friends and having a good time.

“There’s a good attitude here. The running community always has a good attitude,” said Kevin Anderson of South Beloit.

He and wife, Mary, were taking part in the run for the seventh year.

“We’re health coaches, so we wanted to do something healthy before we sat down to the big meal,” Mary Anderson said.

Ethan Walsh brought four of his friends from Rock County Christian High School to run in the Turkey Trot.

“We are just starting up our track training,” he said.

When asked why he came to Roscoe to run, he replied “I’m hear to run with the boys.”

Larson said normally the Turkey Trot attracts 800 or more runners, but the 400 who did turn out was pretty good, especially since many people still are concerned about COVID-19 transmission.

The temperature at the time the race started was around 37 degrees, which Larson described as nearly perfect running weather. There were a few runners who disagreed with Larson, but he added that although it was overcast, at least there was no rain or snow as the run kicked off.

Holiday shoppers are back, but challenges remain

NEW YORK (AP) —Buoyed by solid hiring, healthy pay gains and substantial savings, shoppers are returning to stores and splurging on all types of items.

But the big question is: How much will supply shortages, higher prices and staffing issues dampen their mood this holiday season?

Americans, already fatigued with pandemic-induced social distancing policies, may get grumpy if they can’t check off items on their holiday wish lists, or they may feel disappointed by the skimpy holiday discounts. Exacerbating their foul moods is the fact that many frustrated workers called it quits ahead of the holidays, leaving businesses short-handed during their busiest time of the year.

Shoppers are expected to pay on average of between 5% to 17% more for toys, clothing, appliances, TVs and others purchases on Black Friday this year compared with last year, according to Aurelien Duthoit, senior sector advisor at Allianz Research. TVs will see the highest price spikes on average, up 17% from a year ago, according to the research firm. That’s because whatever discounts available will be applied to goods that are already expensive.

Such frustrations could mute sales for the holiday season that are supposed to break records.

The National Retail Federation, the nation’s largest retail trade group, predicts holiday sales will increase between 8.5% and 10.5% compared with the 2020 holiday period when shoppers, locked down during the early part of the pandemic, spent their money on pajamas and home goods—mostly online. Holiday sales increased 8.2% in 2020.

“I think it is going to be a messy holiday season,” said Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData Retail. ”It will be a bit frustrating for retailers, consumers and the workers. We are going to see long lines. We are going to see messier stores. We are going to see delays as you collect online orders.”

Jill Renslow, executive vice president of business development and marketing for Mall of America, the nation’s largest mall, expects customer counts on Black Friday to be close to the 2019 levels and said its store tenants are seeing “power shopping” earlier in the season. But she acknowledged the mall’s tenants have struggled with staffing and, as a result, the center will open two hours later and close one hour earlier on Black Friday.

“They (retailers) are doing everything they can to deliver a good guest experience,” Renslow said. “But consumers are going to need to be patient and know that the lines may be little bit longer.”

Still, don’t discount the resilience of shoppers who have shown signs they want to celebrate the holidays after muted celebrations last year.

Kathleen Webber, a 58-year-old college professor who lives in Yardley, Pennsylvania, said she’s going back to having big family gatherings for the holidays and will be buying more gifts after spending the holidays last year with only her husband and three children.

“Everybody is so happy to be together, and so we want to celebrate,” said Webber, who said she was a big online shopper.

But the fear of shortages is pushing her to finish holiday shopping by the end of next week; usually, she would wait until Dec. 21 to finish her online buying.

Retailers have also proven to be resilient.

When the pandemic forced non-essential stores to shut down for several months during the spring of 2020, pundits feared the death of department stores and apparel chains. A number of iconic retailers that were already struggling reorganized in bankruptcy, including Neiman Marcus, J.C. Penney and Brooks Brothers. Meanwhile, big box retailers like Walmart and Target that were allowed to remain open only got stronger.

But many retailers have rebounded to a healthier financial state since then. The percentage of U.S. retailers that defaulted on their debt soared 20% last year, compared to 6% for all corporate issuers, according to S&P Global Ratings. This year, it’s less than 2%.

Store closings have also leveled off, a reversal of the bleak picture in 2020. Coresight Research, a global research firm, says retailers in the U.S. have announced 5,057 store closures for the year, but the number of store openings is 5,103 as of November 19. Coresight Research predicted in June 2020 there would be as many as 25,000 store closures last year but in reality, the number was just over 8,000.

The companies that were able to survive the pandemic were also the ones that were able to quickly pivot.

Many switched their offerings from dressy clothing to casual wear and department stores like Macy’s that never provided such services as curbside pickup suddenly launched them. Others got rid of their money-losing locations.

Some of the changes that were introduced in 2020 out of necessity appear to be here to stay, including offering big holiday discounts earlier in October to smooth out peaks in online ordering, and doing away with Thanksgiving Day store shopping and moving customers online instead for deals.

And while the pandemic-induced clogs in the supply network have reduced inventory needed to satisfy shopper demands, such shortfalls have also proven to be a silver lining.

Leaner inventories have brought back some pricing power to retailers who’ve been locked in a vicious cycle of discounting for years. Such non-stop promotions have eaten away profits.

“Even with the increased labor costs and increased supply chain costs, retail earnings have been quite good,” said Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics LLC, noting that when the pandemic hit, it looked like the “sky was falling and retailers would never see a profit again.”

Detroit Lions running back D'Andre Swift (32) rushes during the first half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Books for Kids campaign kicks off

BELOIT—When it comes to holiday gifts, sometimes the simpler the better.

Giving a book to a child is such a simple gift. It doesn’t need batteries, download from a website or complicated assembly instructions. And, it can set a child on a lifetime journey of learning.

With that in mind, the Beloit Daily News and it’s local library and business partners will be presenting the 35th Annual Books for Kids campaign. Once again we are asking local residents to donate gently used books appropriate for children, new children’s books or monetary donations so we can buy new books for local children.

Take a look at your closets and book shelves. Are there any children’s books that are just gathering dust that you can donate? We want them, and more importantly, area children want them for gifts this holiday season.

This year, the books will be donated to children through the Stateline Boys and Girls Clubs in Beloit and South Beloit. We also are donating books to the Defy Domestic Abuse—Beloit holiday drive for families they have served over the last year.

The book collection campaign runs through Dec. 16 at which time Beloit Daily News staff will deliver the books to the two recipient agencies.

We ask that books appropriate for children be donated, and please no encyclopedias, dictionaries or text books.

To make donations easy, book collection boxes have been set up at several locations in the Stateline Area. Books can be dropped off in book collection boxes that are decorated with bright holiday gift wrap at the following locations:

- The Beloit Daily News, 444 E. Grand Ave., Suite 102

- The Beloit Public Library, 605 Eclipse Blvd.

- Bushel and Pecks Local Market, 328 State St.

- Culver’s Restaurant, 2676 Cranston Road

- Woodman’s Food Market, 1877 S. Madison Road

- Piggly Wiggly, 1827 Prairie Ave.

- Talcott Free Library, 101 E. Main St., Rockton

- South Beloit Public Library, 630 Blackhawk Blvd., South Beloit

- Schnucks Grocery, 4860 Hononegah Road, Roscoe

Residents also are reminded they can support two worthy causes at once at the Beloit Public Library. Those who purchase used books from the Friends At Beloit Library (FABL) shelves and then drop those books in the Books for Kids box are supporting the library and the book drive at the same time.

Monetary donations can be made by dropping them off at the Beloit Daily News or mailing them to Beloit Daily News c/o Books for Kids, 444 E. Grand Ave., Beloit, WI 53511. Please make checks out to Beloit Daily News/Books for Kids.

The Books for Kids campaign has been able to provide hundreds of books to area children each year and it has been successful for more than three decades thanks to the generosity of the people of the Stateline Area and the libraries and businesses who partner with the Beloit Daily News in this campaign.

We ask everyone to make a child’s holiday season a little brighter this year by giving them the gift of reading—a gift that will last their entire life.