Merry holiday sales? |

Merry holiday sales?

John HartLouann Gallagher (left) of Grass Valley gets her receipt from Nancy Tiner for a purchase at Mill Street Clothing Company in Grass Valley.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Despite fears that a slack economy would hurt retailers this holiday season, area merchants are reporting a good season so far.

But a new element has cropped up to make the season a nail-biter locally: the weather.

“I’m just keeping my fingers crossed it doesn’t snow at 2,500 feet,” said Dennis Sproviero, store manager for the J.C. Penney Co. Store at Pinecreek Center.

So far, it has been a good season, many local retailers say, with receipts up. “It’s been positive,” said Sproviero, who expects single-digit percentage sales gains this season, based on results so far.

The season for local retailers may come down to weather – whether it snows, and whether there are more power outages.

“What’s going to make or break us for the holiday season, if we get really bad weather it’s going to hurt us,” said Sproviero.

The stormy weather in recent weeks hasn’t hurt his store’s sales so far. Sproviero reports that shoppers seem to be in a positive mood when he talks with them, and the average transaction is comparable to last year.

The Grinch-like retail shopping predictions earlier this year now look to be overblown, say some merchants, including Dix Sullivan, owner of the Golden Flower Trading Company & Museum, a Commercial Street business

“Everyone, including the media, was telling me that it was going to be a bad year, but I’ve found it way above last year,” he said.

Sullivan reports his sales were up a third from last year. One of the most popular items has been a peace flag.

People have still been coming in to Sullivan’s store despite the wet weather last week.

Rita Burns, owner of Tess’ Great Kitchen Place, on Mill Street, said Nov. 29 – the day after Thanksgiving – was her best day ever, up 25 percent from a year ago.

Burns said sales so far are close to last year, and were steady until the weather turned bad, said Burns.

“We think we’ve been doing really well, but not probably not keeping up with last year the last couple of weeks,” said Burns. “We’ve been doing fine, but last year was terrific.”

One Broad Street merchant, Tony Miller of Candles & More, reported that people seemed to be gift-shopping more carefully this year. The store’s sales are on par with a year ago.

The weather has increased Miller’s sales somewhat because people are coming in to buy candles.

One shopper seemed to be full of Christmas cheer rather than gloom, ready to spend despite an uncertain economy plagued by higher November unemployment, threats of war with Iraq, and high levels of consumer debt.

“I seem to be going full speed ahead,” said Mary Walker of Grass Valley, who was shopping at Pinecreek Center last week.

Retail sales numbers released earlier this month suggest other shoppers may be in the same buying mood.

The Commerce Department reported earlier that retail spending, excluding auto sales, was up 0.5 percent in November from the previous month.

Walker knows family and friends for whom the economy has soured. And her 401k account balance is worrisome. But she plans on spending the same as in past years.

“Every year, I vow I will cut back and it doesn’t happen,” she said.

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