Local merchants: It’s an OK season
Consumer confidence has steadily declined since this summer, according to a survey of 5,000 households conducted by the Conference Board, a national research organization.
But for many local merchants, it has been a solid holiday shopping season so far.
“It seems to be going pretty well for the season,” said Alison Grems, president and CEO of the Canandaigua Chamber of Commerce. Canandaigua merchants have been reporting generally good sales, on par with but not significantly better than last year at this time, she said.
Holiday shoppers do seem more selective this year, however. With high heating costs strapping their budgets, many customers are spending a lot of time window-shopping before choosing just the right gift, said Grems.
Russ Martino, owner of the Brass Zipper, says it’s still early on in the shopping season. At his store, an anchor on Canandaigua’s South Main Street for 32 years, things don’t usually get too busy for another week or so.
A few storefronts down at Renaissance The Goodie II Shoppe, business is going about as well as it has during other years’ holiday seasons, said owner Laura Harkness. Sales at the Renaissance climb fairly steadily leading up to Christmas, rather than peaking a weekend or two in advance, she said.
Sales have been going at a steady clip up the street at the Unique Toy Shop, which along with Renaissance The Goodie II Shoppe is in its 25th year of operation. Manager Ann Millerd said she expects this weekend and next weekend to be the busiest of the season. Some of the hottest toys of the season at the store had been Brio weaving looms — until they became so popular that the company ran out, said Millerd.
Not all local stores are doing as well. Linda Wolfberg, owner of the Gift Garden in Canandaigua, said that this is the slowest year the store has ever seen. On Black Friday and Saturday, the two busy shopping days after Thanksgiving, the store’s takings were $300 to $400 less than on those days in 2006.
Many of Main Street’s shoppers prefer the atmosphere and intimacy of local stores over large, national chain stores. “They want the unrushed setting as opposed to the hectic atmosphere at the mall,” said Harkness.
“We hear that anti-mall sentiment all the time,” echoed Wolfberg.
Some of the most popular items at independently owned stores include locally made goods and items that represent the Finger Lakes — they make popular gifts for out-of-state friends and family, said Wolfberg.
Sales are also up at larger stores. Mike Kaufman, a manager at Eastview Mall, said sales at mall stores were about 4.5 percent higher between January and November 2007 than during the same period in 2006.
“That trend will probably carry into December as well,” said Kaufman.
One of the biggest boosts to the shopping season comes from the calendar itself. Analysts generally define the holiday shopping season as a two-month period beginning Nov. 1 and ending Dec. 31. But the busiest time, said Kaufman, falls between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This year, there are 32 shopping days between those holidays — the largest possible number of days.
Contact Hilary Smith at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 343 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.