Sales generally decent over Christmas, but out-of-town shopping remains a major concern

By David F. Rooney

With a few exceptions, local businesses generally reported decent sales over the Christmas-New Year period in 2010 but they remained concerned about the effect of out-of-town shopping

“The Xmas buying period was pretty close to my expectation,” said Steven Hui of Pharmasave. We have been on a downward trend for all the seasonal events this year (ie. Valentine’s Day, Easter, back-to-school and Halloween). I have found that people are being very selective on their purchases and buying many items when only on special or while a promotion is on.”

He also said he found more purchases occurred “at a lower price point, so more expensive items were not purchased as readily.”

He also said he believes “there was a significant amount of out-of-town shopping as roads were pretty good for most of December. In addition they are being wooed with very aggressive advertising from retailers as well as hotels/restaurants.”

“Out-of-town shopping has been, and continues to be, the biggest competition for local shopping dollars,” Hui said. :I believe as a retail sector we have to be better with our marketing to locals. Online shopping does occur but I believe that shoppers still prefer to see and touch the items they sell.”

Hui predicted that local retailers will continue to be challenged over the coming year “and it may be a good year or two before consumer confidence returns to pre-2008 levels.”

Deenie Ottenbreit at Chantilly Kitchen Bed & Bath reported a decline in Christmas sales of about 10% from last year, “definitely down from what I was hoping for (a 10% increase.

“We felt consumers were buying a lot more lower-valued gifts this year,”  she said.

“I definitely feel that there was a lot of out-of-town shopping, especially due to good roads before Christmas,” Ottenbreit said.  “And I am positive there was lots of online shopping. I really notice this when waiting in line at the Post Office and seeing parcels from Amazon, the Shopping Channel etc.”

Crescendo’s Elvira Brunner and Daniel Weber said their online store and a satellite shop (Chocoliro in Armstrong) helped buoy their sales this year,” they said in an e-mail response to questions from The Current.

“We had this year more people from out of town, than last year, because we were at some fairs (Salmon Arm, Armstrong, Vernon and)  we had still some locals and some seasonal customers.”

But without the online and satellite shop sales, they would have to report a worse year than in 2009.

Work and Play’s Lawrence Rebalkin experienced disappointing sales this Christmas but since the previous holiday season’s sales were very good he figures it all evens out in end.

“So I have inventory left over — I think of that as an investment,” he said.

Gennifer Ryan at Areaworx, Revelstoke’s only lighting and interior-design shop, was very happy with “sales though we had nothing to compare them with as we weren’t open last year.

“Many local people wouldn’t have even thought of shopping for Christmas gifts at a lighting store  — we knew this going in,” she said.  “Who buys lights as a gift? But once word of mouth from our regulars and advertising with The Revelstoke Current kicked in, the local shoppers showed up in droves.

“They actually said they found our selection of merchandise was more unique and the prices reasonable compared to anything they’d found elsewhere — and next year — they would check us out first!

Ryan said she found that very encouraging and “it was even more exciting when they began to open their wallets!”

“I had a woman shopping in the store from San Francisco who remarked that we should open a store there,” Ryan said  “I had another woman visiting from Alberta who was shopping while her husband went sledding — she came in three times during her stay. Another woman who was visiting from the Prairies, spent a couple of hours with us enjoying a cup of tea, chatting and spending.  I saw her later that day shopping at Free Spirit Sports, too.”

She said many customers this winter appeared to be from Europe and the UK… and they felt our expertise, prices and product range were exactly what they were looking for and stated they were just pleasantly surprised to find us here in Revelstoke and happy they could support a local business.”

“Just because we all live in a small town doesn’t mean we’re incapable of good taste, professional service and unique offerings.”

Vanessa Smith at Grizzly Books and Gwen Lips at Castle Joe Books also reported excellent sales over the Christmas-New Year’s period.

“Books are always an excellent gift,” Smith said.

Lips said this December was an improvement over last in the sales department at Castle Joe.

“We increased our sales a whopping 26%,” she said. “Overall, the whole year was up over last year.  I found last year that the winter tourism season started after Christmas and lasted as long as the snow did. Hopefully this year we’ll have more snow and a longer season.”

That could well be in the works.

Rod Kessler of Revelstoke Mountain Resort said more and more families have been picking the resort as their winter skiing destination of choice. In particular, the resort’s appeal to young skiers has skyrocketed with enrolment in children’s ski programs soaring, he said.

That could have a noticeable impact on retail sales this season.