Holiday sales worth smiling about for some local merchants
Nathan L. /
Store owners attribute strong sales numbers to several factors, including cooporation among merchants and shoppers choosing to stay close to home
Two weeks of snowstorms, icy roads and renewed community support for
local merchants turned gloomy expectations into a rosy Christmas sales
season for many Baker City businesses.
"We advertised a Christmas sale and we had a really good turnout," said
Shirley Hayes, a bookkeeper at DandB Supply. "We're excited. We did
better than we ever have."
"I think with all the concerns about the economy, people were looking
for bargains," Hayes said. "We had a lot of merchandise discounted 20
percent and more, so it made it easy for people shopping for Christmas
to get something nice, inexpensively."
She said the arctic weather that arrived the second week of December
helped make the Christmas sale such a big success that DandB sold out
of some cold weather gear.
"The cold weather really brought people out," Hayes said. "Before that,
it was rather slow. After it snowed and got cold, sales picked up."
Cold weather gear also flew off the racks at Flagstaff Sports and Kicks Sports Wear, both on Main Street.
Ryan Chaves, an owner of Kicks Sports Wear, said Christmas sales were better than he expected.
He attributes this largely to residents shopping locally, partly out of
a sense of community support fostered by the "Shop Local" campaign, and
partly due to periodic closures of Interstate 84 and other roads.
Chaves said business owners participating in the Shop Local campaign followed through on their commitments to help people have a successful Christmas shopping experience by keeping abreast of what other businesses stocked, and referring shoppers to stores that had the items they wanted.
"I was really impressed with how much business we did (during the Christmas sales season, which runs from the day after Thanksgiving through New Year's weekend)," Chaves said.
He also credited the surprisingly good Christmas sales to a team effort by the Baker County Chamber of Commerce and local business owners to find out what merchandise people wanted, stocking those items and then "asking locals to give us a shot before you go out of town or shop online," Chaves said.
"By communicating with each other, going into each other's stores and seeing who stocked what, we were able to refer customers to other local stores," Chaves said, adding that his customers seemed to appreciate being referred to a store a block or two away rather than having to take a risky drive on snow-packed highways.
"I had one customer who came in and bought a pair of athletic shoes," Chaves said. "He said he needed a particular book, and I recommended Betty's Books, two doors down, and they bought the book there.
"Most of the businesses I know are referring locally before we do anything else," Chaves said.
"Businesses are doing good because more people are shopping in town," he said.
In addition to his regular customers, he said he served a lot of Christmas shoppers he'd never seen before, including some from towns such as John Day and Halfway who decided to give Baker City a try this year rather than making the longer drive to shopping malls in the Boise area.
At Marilyn's Music on Main Street, owner Marilyn Shollenberger said Christmas sales started slowly but exploded in the last few weeks.
"It ended up being a really good Christmas," Shollenberger said. "We sold a lot of guitars, keyboards and some of the higher-quality things like violins.
"We actually sold out of violins and had to re-order," she said.
Marilyn's Music also was able to re-order amplifier models that sold out, so everyone could get what they wanted.
"We brought in some higher-end guitars, and they sold really well," Shollenberger said. "Overall, we sold more of the better quality equipment."
She said sales of acoustic guitars handmade in Canada, and American-made electric guitars, were among the hottest-selling items during the Christmas sales season.
"On the whole, it was a very positive season. For my store, I felt like we were blessed," Shollenberger said.
JoAnn Sieckman, who recently bought the New 2 You clothing store on Main Street, said sales were strong during her first Christmas season operating the store.
"Our sales were very good," she said. "Everything is secondhand merchandise. People bring in things to be sold that is new or slightly used and we sell it on consignment."
Clothing at New 2 You, including coats, shoes, hats and gloves, costs 50 to 75 percent less than the original price, she said.
"We sell everything from newborn to size 3x and 4x," she said.
"I think our business actually benefitted from the concerns about the economy," Sieckman said. "A lot of people were buying Christmas gifts. The were shopping on a budget, and they could get the same thing from us that would cost two or three times as much new."
"The holidays are our busiest time of the year," said Audrey Hindman, owner of Aud's and Ends salon on Washington Avenue. "We sold lots of Merle Norman cosmetics, shampoos, conditioners, lotions and gift certificates for stocking stuffers."
Tom and Carolyn Kulog, owners of Betty's Books, reported a good Christmas sales season, and said they wanted to quash a rumor.
"There's a rumor going around town that we are going out of business, and that's not true," said Carolyn Kulog.
Tom surmises that a recent announcement that Barb and Betty's Hallmark Shop is up for sale, combined with the name similarity, might be behind the false rumor about Betty's Books going out of business.
"The business is doing well. Sales were down a little bit earlier, but it picked up in December," he said.
Some of the more popular books this year included the Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer, a book called "The Shack" by William Paul Young, and a novel titled "Hearts of Horses" by Molly Gloss.
"Both ;The Shack; and ;Hearts of Horses; are set in Northeast Oregon," Kulog said.
At Traditions Quilt Shop on Broadway Street, owner Dawn Kitzmiller reported strong Christmas sales with an increase in customers offsetting a slight drop in the amount per sale.
"We had a lot more customers coming in, but they were buying slightly less," she said.
Kitzmiller credited quilting classes offered on weekends in part for the increase in customers.
"We've had more people start quilting because we have the weekend classes. We're also seeing more out-of-town customers who have discovered us and stop in when they're passing through the area," Kitzmiller said.
During the Christmas season, she said "the biggest sellers were sewing machines and gift certificates."
Customers from near and far were also drawn by the high thread count cotton and flannel quilting fabric, Kitzmiller said.
"When people make a quilt that is going to be handed down from generation to generation, they want quality fabric that is going to last," Kitzmiller said.
While people may be cutting down on some expenses due to concerns about the economy, Kitzmiller said the recession seems to be helping in another way: Some people, who chose to make their own gifts rather than buy them during hard times, decided to buy a sewing machine.