Local retailers happy with holiday sales

12/28/2012

By SCOTT AUST

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

Despite recent national news reports about a sluggish holiday season for retailers, several small Garden City businesses said sales were actually pretty good out here on the plains.

"You have to keep in mind, they're talking to big box stores, and they look at things differently. They inventory differently," said Shonda Collins, owner of Wheatfields on Main.

Collins said the Internet is probably the biggest challenge for smaller local stores, and unlike the East Coast, local businesses didn't have to deal with something like Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath.

"Out here, I think we're more driven by moisture, how much rain we get since we're an ag-based economy. If the farmers and cattlemen are doing well, retailers will do well," she said.

Wheatfields did well this Christmas, Collins said.

"One thing that was a surprise is we sold many, many handbags this year. We may have had record handbag sales this year," she said. "Go figure. One year it was perfume, but this year our hot item was handbags."

Another surprising thing about the holiday shopping season, she said, was that the store had a large influx of business in the week leading up to Christmas, as well as what may have been the busiest Christmas Eve she's ever had.

Collins said she expected to close around 2 p.m. on Christmas Eve and be able to leave by 3 p.m. But she wound up being at the shop until 4 p.m.

While she isn't sure what prompted the late surge of customers, Collins said her guess is the forecast of snow may have played a part.

"I have a feeling moisture brought reassurance," she said.

Collins said there are still a few days left in the year, and she hasn't had a chance to review sales totals, but she is hopeful the end-of-the-year push will show Wheatfields had a better year this year than last year.

Kay Lee, one of the co-owners of The Corner on Main, said she thinks local businesses are largely exempt from the types of issues facing national retailers or businesses on the East Coast, mainly because of Garden City's location.

"Which is a good thing. We're very lucky," she said.

Overall, Lee said, holiday sales were "great" at The Corner, whose big sellers were jewelry, scarves, candles and glass, framed plaques with inspirational messages inscribed on them.

"We had a big flux at the end. People waited — I don't know the reason — but this last week was pretty big. It was way more than we had anticipated," she said.

Heather Davis, owner of Davis Designs, said her Christmas season started in October, when she started putting out Christmas related merchandise, and overall sales have been good.

"We sold quite a few flat trees this year, lots of ornaments. Last year, people might buy one of different types of ornament. This year, people were buying six to 12 of the same ornament," Davis said.

Davis said the increased activity this year could be because the store had just opened during last year's holiday season and people may have been waiting to see what kind of sales the store would offer. This year, sales were up, though Davis couldn't say by what percentage compared to last year.

"Traffic went up, too. I wouldn't say big, but we gained more customers through the season," she said. "A lot of them were new people that didn't know we were here. That always helps, too."

Shelly Porter, owner of Porter's Flowers and Gifts, said she hasn't had time to crunch the numbers, but overall her business had a good Christmas.

"We had a really good season, lots of shoppers. We were very pleased," Porter said.

Porter said there seemed to be a few more shoppers buying a few more things this year, and that business picked up around Thanksgiving and generally was steady through December. Porter's big sellers this year were the Vera Bradley line of handbags and purses, the Bath and Body line, silk and Christmas decor and fresh Christmas arrangements.

"Our shelves are pretty empty right now," she said. "I bought up, so I was real pleased. We start with Thanksgiving gifts, whether it's poinsettias or gifts like that, but the week to week and a half before Christmas is when you really get really busy."

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