Jackie’s Gift Shop in Laurinburg will close its doors for good at the end of this year.
Store owner Jackie Ford cited economic difficulties as the reason for her shop’s closure. Ford opened the store, which is located in the Holly Square shopping center, in 2001. The shop was formerly a Hallmark Gold Crown store.
“My husband and I have been floating the business now for four years,” said Ford. “This is not me getting out of it because I want to; I don’t really want to at all.”
The sluggish local economy, combined with increased availability of gifts, cards, and novelties from other sources, have led customers away from Ford’s business since 2008.
“It’s the unemployment rate, Internet sales, QVC home shopping, Hallmark putting their product in mass markets like Walmart, Walgreens, Kohl’s,” said Ford “That hurts a Hallmark store. The last good year I had was 2007.”
Ford’s business is down more than 50 percent from its levels prior to 2007, and often fails to net enough income to cover rent payment for the storefront. Ford discontinued her affiliation with Hallmark last year, as her level of business no longer warranted the inventory levels required by the company.
The store still attracts a trickle of loyal customers, however, who will now have to look elsewhere for a gift or card on special occasions.
“My customers are just devastated, because it’s a nice place to shop,” said Ford. “I have a wide category of customers. I know almost all of my customers by name, and they like that. I’ve also had some great sales associates, and I had a store manager for quite a few years who was wonderful.”
Stephanie Skurtu, an occasional customer of Jackie’s Gift Shop, seemed unsurprised by the going out of business banner hanging outside the store.
“I come in a few times a year mostly for anniversary cards, and at Christmas, decorations, and I’m sad to see her close,” Skurtu said. “When she no longer contracted with Hallmark, I knew the economic situation in Laurinburg was affecting her store. I was surprised that the community didn’t come out to support this store more when she was no longer a Hallmark Gold Crown, but times are hard for everybody.”
Despite Ford’s best efforts, Dec. 31 will be the final day of business at Jackie’s Gift Shop. Everything in the store is currently priced at 50 percent off. Most items will remain at that price level, with some discounted to 75 percent.
“When people don’t have jobs, there’s no money to spend, and I am a gift store,” said Ford. “When push comes to shove, people are going to buy staples when things are as bad as they are: food, shelter, and gasoline.”
Although shutting the doors of her business will leave Ford without a job, she hopes to resume her prior career in administration.
“I worked at WestPoint Stevens for the VP; I was their secretary, I worked in the accounting department, accounts payable, accounts receivable,” said Ford. “You name it, I’ve done it for 25 years. I was actually sales director when I left, but I wanted to own my own business. Retail is my love - I really love working with the customers.”