Retail sales a mixed bag as Christmas gets closer

12/21/2012 7:10 AM

12/21/2012 7:11 AM

Retail business for local stores was a mixed bag this week, with only a few days left to shop before Christmas.

Nationally, analysts are dialing down expectations for the biggest shopping season of the year, and big chain stores are offering extended hours and bigger discounts in an effort to draw shoppers into their doors in the days leading up to Christmas.

Local owners and managers say their stores have gotten busier this past week.

“Now it’s coming on like crazy,” said Kay Wiggins, owner of Kay Wiggins Jewelry and Gifts, 600 S. Tyler Road, Suite W-100. “I think some of it is the warm weather. People didn’t realize it really is December. But boy are they coming in now that it’s getting really cold.”

Overall, Pam Bishop, co-owner of Cero’s Candies, 1108 E. Douglas, said business is slightly up from last year.

“Once I open the doors, it gets crazy,” Bishop said. “With candy, people want it to be fresher, so the closer it gets to Christmas, the busier we are.”

In Delano, stores said business is about the same or a little slower than last year.

“Hopefully it will pick up,” said Jodie Mayer, co-owner of Lady Grace Boutique, 810 W. Douglas, Suite A. “Last year, it was really busy down here.”

Mayer said people seem to be doing more window shopping, rather than buying.

“We’re not sure if they’re just putting off buying presents or if the economy is really hurting,” Mayer said.

Nancy Lawrence, president of Historic Delano Inc. and partner at Central Plains Novelty in Delano, 905 W. Douglas, said this year is pretty even with last year, but they still haven’t bounced back from the recession.

Central Plains Novelty has been in business for 27 years.

“It’s been fairly busy, but people are being more conservative about what they’re spending,” Lawrence said.

She said that a focus on people shopping locally has helped stores in the Delano district. Merchants in Delano have held additional events and promotions during the holiday season this year to bring in more customers.

National snapshot

ShopperTrak, a retail technology company that counts and analyzes foot traffic, said in its report for Dec. 9 through Dec. 15 that foot traffic and sales increased over the prior week but were down from the same period last year.

It projected a last-minute rush for shoppers and that this week ending Dec. 22 will be the largest weekly sales volume of the year nationwide.

There are 32 shopping days between Black Friday and Christmas, which is a longer interval than usual.

ShopperTrak projects holiday foot traffic overall will increase about 2.8 percent over last year, which would be the first increase in retail foot traffic during the holidays since the 2008 recession, according to the report.

But actual sales haven’t been as brisk as anticipated. ShopperTrak cut its forecast to a 2.5 percent increase to $257.7 billion, down from the 3.3 percent growth it had initially predicted.

Online sales, which have been seen as a beacon during the season, have been below expectations, too. Online sales are up 13 percent to $35 billion from Nov. 1 through Dec. 16, according to comScore, an online research firm. That pace is below the forecast of 17 percent for the season.

“It feels like the steam is out of the holiday since Black Friday,” said Bill Martin, ShopperTrak’s co-founder.

Contributing: Associated Press

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