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Holiday sales surge

Many Columbia retailers fared better than merchants did across the nation
Monday, January 1, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:33 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Despite slow sales across the country and a Dec. 1 snowstorm that stalled the shopping season for days in Columbia, many local merchants are reporting better than average holiday sales this year.

Mild weather as Christmas approached helped contribute to the strong year, merchants said.

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A woman passes Envy, a clothing store on Broadway. December’s snowstorm closed the store one day, but it was busy the following days, the manager said. (Photos by ADAM WISNESKI/Missourian)

Lori Young, manager of the clothing shop Envy on Broadway, said the store did well even immediately after the 15.5-inch snow, which clogged downtown streets for a couple of days.

“We only closed for one day during the snowstorm,” Young said. “The other days we were actually really busy with customers who wanted to get out of the house.”

Some stores, such as the Alpine Shop, Envy and Britches, reported that coats and jackets were a popular gift item this year. That bucks the national trend of poor sales of winter clothing, which was attributed to warmer-than-average temperatures.

Some Columbia stores credited a change of location for stronger sales. Lisa Suits, owner of The Arsenic Leopard, an art boutique that recently moved to Ninth Street from Walnut Street, said the change helped create a fantastic year.

“The new location gets great foot traffic, and about 75 percent of our customers were new customers,” Suits said.

Maude Vintage Clothing also moved from its former basement location to a street location on Broadway. “Sidewalk visibility” upped its holiday sales, employee Channing Kennedy said.

Others said good strategy boosted their bottom lines.

“We fared very well this year,” Michelle Burkart of Dungarees on Broadway said. “We attribute it to better planning and analyzing previous years’ sales.”

Paul Vernon at Top Ten Wines said he’s simply getting better at what he does.

“I bought more wine and sold more wine than ever before (this year),” he said. “I think I buy better now, and I was able to get good bargains on good wines.”

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“I bought more wine and sold more wine than ever before (this year),” said Paul Vernon, owner of Top Ten Wines.

Butterfly Tattoo on North Ninth Street even reported that it sold completely out of a rather obtuse item: ugly dolls.

“They’re stuffed animals that are so ugly that they are adorable,” said employee Amanda Vandertuig.

Merchants outside the District also had a good year, and the reasons varied.

Marcia Voss, longtime owner of White Horse Antiques in Rocheport, said her sales this season were “excellent.”

“I’ve done this for 19 years,” she said. “I keep good track of numbers, and this year was better than the last two years.”

Lee Brandkamp, owner of the Powder Horn Gun Shop off Business Loop 70 East, said his store did better than last year because of more sales promotions and fewer competitors.

Sho Me Farms, which sells organic meats south of Columbia, began slowly in November but became busy in December. “This year, people waited to shop until the last minute,” owner Don Mayse said.

The local retailers’ upbeat reports contrasted with a slow holiday shopping season across the country. After a stronger-than-expected showing on Black Friday, merchants struggled through most of December, and the shopping surge in the final days before Christmas wasn’t big enough to make up for lost sales earlier in the season.

But retailers who expect to bring in a sizeable part of their holiday sales after Christmas were hoping that bargain-hunters would save the season for them, as they have done in past years, and that consumers redeeming gift cards would also give them a sales pop.

Several analysts were already ratcheting down their forecasts Tuesday, resigned to the fact that the season won’t be as good as they had hoped. Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak RCT Corp., a Chicago-based research company that tracks total sales for more than 45,000 retailers, said he now expects holiday sales growth could be as low as 4.5 percent; he had originally forecast a 5 percent gain. And Michael Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers, pared his same-store sales growth forecast for the November-December period to 2.5 percent from his original 3 percent.

Luxury and online retailers, on the other hand, surpassed sales expectations, while electronics retailers such as Best Buy Co. and Circuit City Stores, were likely to see profits suffer.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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