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Holiday sales a mixed bag for area businesses

Some shops report strong sales late, while others have less
By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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The Christmas season turned out to be a mixed bag for local businesses. 
Sales were up for some, but for most retailers, they were comparable to last year and lagging previous years.

At Creative Urges in Downtown Auburn, owner Kathryn Santiago said her sales matched 2008, but started later.

“Sales didn’t kick in until two weeks before Christmas,” she said. “Usually business starts picking up in November.”

This is Santiago’s fourth Christmas at the Lincoln Way location.
“The first year was my best,” she said.

Creative Urges sells a mix of manufactured gifts and do-it-yourself items.

“I did see an increase in the amount of crafting materials, versus ready-made gifts,” she said. “(Sales of those items) even increased. … I sold lots of yarn.”
The Think Auburn First campaign to encourage residents to shop locally likely boosted foot traffic.

“I do think the coordinators are doing a pretty good job,” Santiago said. “But I’d like to see the Think Auburn First (campaign) be a little more proactive and get people involved.”

At Encore Music Center, manager John Pesely said sales were up a bit from last year.

“There were a lot of people through the door and people were buying smaller things,” he said.

Encore also saw a later sales surge. The store has been around for 14 years, and at the Cleveland Avenue location for about four years.

“We have a pretty good clientele,” Pesely said. “We have a lesson program that brings people in, and that filters down to sales on the (retail) floor.
At The Chocolate Shoppe on Lincoln Way, sales were down a little from last year, co-owner Lois Gallagher said.

“It could have been better, but I’m just glad we had a Christmas, so it was good,” she said.
Besides the recession, the Streetscape project may have played a role in keeping volume down.

“We do lots of stocking-stuffer things,” Gallagher said. “So it depends on how many people make it through the street (construction) to get here.”
It was a slow holiday season for Petals & Sweets off Highway 49 in North Auburn.

Owner Dennise Groves said 2006 was the last really good year, before the downturn started impacting sales.
“Flowers are a luxury,” she said. “It’s easier to cut those out than your gardener.”

As a florist and member of FTD and Teleflora, a significant amount of Groves’ business comes from out-of-town orders. And those were down, too.
Groves attributes that to the Internet, where Web sites sell flowers at discount rates, sent from countries where labor is cheap.

To counteract the downward trend this year, she introduced a centerpiece-upgrade program. Customers who purchased a centerpiece early in December could add $10 to the price, and then bring back the arrangement to have the wilted flowers replaced.

“We had one customer who came back twice, so they had a fresh flower centerpiece for the entire holiday season,” Groves said.
A few blocks away, the holiday season boomed at Balloon Mama’s Wild and Wacky Gifts.

“We did absolutely great, better than I thought we would,” owner Chenanne Wilson said.

Wilson, who has been at the Highway 49 and Palm Avenue location for two Christmas seasons, said this year saw more sales because her customer base is more established.

“People see this as a destination gift shop,” she said.

Wilson credits the variety of merchandise she sells, and the moderate prices that make them ideal stocking stuffers. She also made the most of the high profile location facing Highway 49 by using colorful window displays and placing colorful merchandise outside.

“Many people who stop by say they just want to see what’s inside,” she said.

Gloria Young can be reached at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com.