Golden shoppers slow to start buying presents this Christmas

Although many small business owners agree it was a slow start for holiday shopping this year, presents started flying off the shelves the last few days before Christmas and even into Boxing Day week.

Ian Donnelly of the Jungle Room noticed that there were very few shoppers in the first few weeks of December when sales are usually starting to rise.

“But people started coming into the store right before Christmas and grabbing stuff from the shelves,” he said. Donnelly guesses that the Jungle Room’s sales will be almost exactly the same as last holiday season.

Deb Kwiatek, owner of Top Notch, found a similar pattern.

“Sales were really down in mid-December and we were worried,” she said. “But it picked up right before Christmas and it’s still going strong.”

Kwiatek also noticed that customers were paying for their purchases in cash more often than debit or credit card, which is abnormal for the Christmas shopping season.

“I don’t really know what it means, but it could point to the fact that people are trying harder not to go into credit debt.”

Cross-country skis were the hot item at the Kicking Horse Gear Exchange this Christmas as more and more people are getting involved in the sport. This trend seemed to have started last winter and really picked up this ski season.

“We haven’t done inventory yet,” said Charlotte Gavura, owner and operator of the store. “But it seemed really busy in the store this whole month.”

Lori Baxendale, owner of Lori Baxendale Formals, was surprised how slow sales were at her store in the week before New Years Eve, but had several strong weeks at the end of November and start of December. She is really pleased with her decision to put dozens of dresses on a $40 sale rack.

“It was so neat,” said Baxendale. “I sold dresses to women of all walks of life from that rack.”

Baxendale noticed the hords of skiers milling around downtown after the ski hill closed during the week between Christmas and New Years. She hopes this influx of tourism will help “line the pockets” of local businesses as they head into the typically slow month of January.

As for how she will get through the lack of spending that always happens in the New Year, Baxendale hopes the tourists keep coming. That, and she’ll have to put on a big, big sale.