Christmas season brings mixed results to local stores

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St. Albert retailers are reporting mixed results during the pre- and post-Christmas shopping season.

The St. Albert Future Shop improved its sales in its second Christmas since opening in November, 2008.

“Terrific response from the community. It was awesome,” said general manager Aaron Bisson. He declined to share figures but said traffic and sales were both noticeably higher this year.

While he detected people were looking for a good price, he said shoppers weren’t shy about spending.

“If they felt they were getting value for money then the money wasn’t an object. They were still buying those $1,500 TVs and dropping $2,000,” Bisson said.

There wasn’t one must-have electronic item this season but Wii video game systems and video iPods were the most popular items, Bisson said. Electronic book readers, cameras and the latest Star Trek movie were also big sellers, he said.

Down the Trail at Sport Chek, Christmas brought a modest decrease in sales.

“We’re slightly down from last year but considering everything going on I’m mildly happy with that. Of course I wanted to do a little better than last year,” said manager Keith MacAulay.

For retailers, the Christmas shopping season includes Boxing Day and the days that follow, he said. Besides sales volume, another variable that affects the season’s overall success is the number of returns. In MacAulay’s mind, there’s still another week in the season.

“Our Boxing Day was bigger than last year, which is a good sign for us, one of the biggest days we’ve ever had in the store so it was a pretty good season,” MacAulay said.

“We’re still doing a lot in sales. We could still come out ahead or even at least.”

St. Albert Centre was busy right up to closing time on Christmas Eve, said Charmaine O’Connor of Northern Reflections. However, sales at her store were down slightly this year.

“When they came, they bought what they wanted and they left, nothing extra,” O’Connor said. “People seemed to have budgets and they stuck to them.”

While some economists are suggesting that the recession is over, the consumer behaviour that O’Connor is witnessing suggests otherwise.

“What I see is people being very careful with their money. They’re waiting for the sale,” she said. “If they don’t get it then they’re fine enough to walk away and say, ‘I really didn’t need it.’”

One store that saw a huge increase in sales was Claire’s Boutique in St. Albert Centre. A “stocking stuffer store,” the shop did 40 per cent more business this Christmas than last year, said manager Stephanie Johnston.

“We’ve done fantastically,” Johnston said. “I’ve been basically cleaned out.”

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