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Holiday sales please local businesses

BY WILL PINKSTON wpinkston@paducahsun.com

A calendar-shortened holiday shopping season didn't keep sales down locally as several Paducah retailers reported heavy consumer traffic both before and after Christmas Day.

Projected to provide a 3.9 percent bump in the year's retail sales nationwide, the holiday shopping season between Black Friday and the end of December was anticipated to register only a marginal gain over the 2012 mark of 3.5 percent, according to the National Retail Federation. Yet retailers remained cautiously optimistic for even a small spike as those handful of weeks typically account for as much as 20-40 percent of annual sales.

Although it's too early for actual holiday figures nationwide, locally owned businesses in Paducah were encouraged by strong sales that continued even after the traditional gift-giving day passed.

The start to college basketball season brought about a surge in business at the Wildcat Wearhouse University of Kentucky fan apparel store, but Black Friday sales that saw up to 400 customers represented just the beginning to a busy holiday season that continued well past New Year's as people spent Christmas cash, said Jonathan Wise, store manager.

"Once the ball started bouncing our business spiked tremendously," Wise said Sunday. "(But) from Christmas Day even up to now with the bad weather moving through, we still had fans coming in here and buying products."

According to a retail federation survey, the average holiday shopper planned on spending about $700, with the two most requested gifts being gift cards and clothing. With this year's calendar having Thanksgiving fall on the last week of November, retailers faced one less week of holiday shopping. Many offered sales or specials to bring customers in earlier.

Amanda Thompson and Laura Witten, co-owners of Chrislyn's Boutique women's clothing store, anticipated the holiday rush and noticed a spike in customer traffic about two weeks before Christmas. The pair also noticed an increase in gift card purchases that they attributed to the shortened shopping time.

Where retailers would normally see returns after the holiday, the gift cards proved beneficial in bringing customers into the store post-Christmas for end-of-year sales.

"We actually did wonderful after Christmas, much better than last year," Thompson said.

"And a lot of the reasons we didn't have returns was because we did sell a lot of gift cards."

Although the International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs sales index released figures Tuesday that indicated a 5.4 percent slip in weekly sales through Saturday - which the report attributed to adverse weather in the Midwest and Northeast - the weather proved beneficial for some specialty stores.

Hooper's Outdoor Center noticed steady seasonal sales throughout the past two months, including a strong sales period immediately following Christmas amid frigid and icy weather, said Matt Cherry, store manager.

"Even with the ice we still stayed open through much of it, and people definitely came here to get their warm gear," Cherry said. "Compared to earlier years where we didn't have much of a winter, this (season) has definitely been better than last for that reason right there."

 

Contact Will Pinkston, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676 or follow @WCPinkston on Twitter.

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