Solid Christmas season for downtown merchants

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It’s impossible to quantify the 2013 Christmas shopping season in simple black and white terms. But elements relatable to both colours were significant for at least a trio of Tillsonburg’s downtown merchants during an admittedly random Saturday survey.

Over at Harry’s, a store specializing in ‘surf, skateboard and snowboarding’ items, a white Christmas was just what the doctor ordered.

“It was what we needed,” said manager Bob Knopp, noting a lack of winter weather impacts on snowboarding in particular.

“It was definitely pretty steady for us,” he continued. “Nice and steady the whole way, no dead zones, which was really, really good.”

Gift cards were one identifiable and ongoing trend, said Knopp, along with the popularity of ‘camo’ clothing.

“Can’t keep enough of it in the store,” he said, “girls, guys, everyone.”

Festive prints were also a popular item said Knopp. “Not so much the ugly Christmas sweaters, nice, but the same sort of vibe coming from it.”

The ‘white’ nature of this year’s Christmas season was also significant at Paul’s Shoes. Although not traditionally a yuletide gift, Marcie Walters-Turcotte attributed an ‘awesome, fantastic’ December in terms of sales to snow and cold temperatures.

“I think we just had a winter this year, as opposed to last year,” she said. “It was pretty much weather based.

“We are very pleased with having a white Christmas.”

Steve Smith, Vice President of Ronsons Electronics, believes a ‘soft’ 2013 Christmas season in the community electronics business in comparison to 2012 can in part be attributed to ‘Black Friday’ sales south of the border.

“Going to the states to take advantage of that stuff does have an effect on Canadian retail,” he said, noting the experience is one shared in community electronics retailers outside of Tillsonburg.

“Overall it’s been reasonable (at Ronsons), but compared to previous years, there doesn’t seem to be that intensity, that sort of craziness you’d normally expect.”

Black Friday, along with online sales, does take some of the wind out of the sails for local merchants, believes Smith, who also believes ‘shopping local’ includes local expertise and support, as well as revenue for the local economy.

“To me, that makes a lot of sense.”

Red was a colour of significance at The Thirsty Golfer, as in a holiday wine preference.

“More reds in winter than whites,” said co-owner Carlos Oliveira. “And people want to enjoy a little nicer wine as well.”

The Christmas season has been ‘great on both sides,’ Oliveira continued, with the restaurant busy throughout with shoppers.

“They come in and get a quick bite to eat, whether lunch or dinner,” said Oliveira, adding the expanded golf simulator (now a multi-sport device including dodgeball, soccer, basketball and football) has proven a hit during private parties for 35 or fewer guests.

“They went over really well,” said Oliveira. “Lots of positive feedback.”

It was a busy Christmas season at the Gospel Lighthouse as well, said Lisa Bueckert.

“Sales were great,” she said, citing not one particular trend, so much as overall strength. “Everything and anything.”

The store specializes in Christian-based music, giftware, music and book, “books, hand-held books.”

Duck Commander gear has been popular said Bueckert, but that is a trend reaching back to the spring.

“We’ve had everyone and anyone come in (for that), they reach a big market.”

The Gospel Lighthouse does traditionally have a Christmas rush, Bueckert added, this year’s just seemed ‘moreso.

“Even today, way more people than I thought we’d have,” she concluded Saturday.

Tammy Kyle, owner/Registered Massage Therapist at Tranquility Spa and Salon, was pleasantly surprised with her first Christmas season, after taking over in January.

“I was shocked,” she said of the Thursday, Friday and Saturday prior to Christmas. “They were definitely our busiest days of the year.”

Overall, “it was great,” Kyle continued.

“We had lots of traffic and lots and lots of gift certificates.”

Gift packages were popular, said Kyle, along with stocking stuffers including scarves and jewelry, as well as eyelash extensions.

“That was definitely trending this year, a lot of people wanted to get these before Christmas parties.”

The fact staff Christmas parties are often held in January may be behind more gift certificates heading out of Tranquility Saturday.

“They are getting prepared for that,” theorized Kyle, of a nice capper to a great Christmas shopping spree. “Very good,” she concluded, “a good season.”



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