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Some retailers are reporting exceptional years for holiday sales, but others say consumers still are not spending like they used to.
Bill Jensen, manager of The Source, an electronics store inside the Dawson Mall, said this Christmas season has been a busy one for his store.
“Generally speaking, we have actually seen more people in here than last year,” said Jensen. “Of course, we’ve been here for a year, so we’re more established and people know we are here, but I have definitely noticed a huge increase over last year in what people are buying and what they are willing to spend.”
He said while the economy still is rough for a lot of people, Christmas is still a time people want to spend to get gifts for their loved ones, and is still the best time of year for sales at his store. He said, this year, remote-controlled helicopters and cell phones have been the hottest items at the store.
Jensen added that the recent renovations made to the mall – including a new parking lot, new façade, and more signage out front – have definitely boosted traffic inside.
“It has definitely been a positive change with that. Even up until a month ago I would still hear a lot of people saying they didn’t even know this place (the mall) was still open because nothing had been done for a while.”
However, for one downtown retailer, Christmas sales have remained about the same as last year and have not yet recovered from the effects of the global economic downturn in 2008.
“In relation to what it was three or four years ago, it is still down considerably. Whether people believe it or not, there is still a recession happening, and as much as people tend to open their wallets at Christmas time, I find it’s still a bit softer,” said Ed Mah, owner of Bing’s Furniture and Appliances at the corner of 10 Street and 102 Avenue.
Mah said while the oil and gas sector may be booming, those workers tend to be from out of town and therefore do not do most of their holiday shopping in Dawson Creek. He added that the unusually warm weather actually doesn’t help either, because it tends to encourage people to shop out of town, and specifically in Grande Prairie.
“As dumb as it sounds, when this time approaches, there are a lot of us retailers who are on our hands and knees praying to weather gods for a blizzard and 40 below (temperature), so that people won’t get in their cars and travel to Grande Prairie,” he said.
He said it is ironic because he doesn’t believe people actually save any money after factoring in fuel and food costs for out-of-town shopping.
Mah said, however, the Christmas season tends to be the time when people buy, especially electronics such as televisions and DVD players, and even beds and other furniture. He said he has adjusted his business to correspond with the lower demand, and continues to appreciate the support he does receive from the community.
“It is what it is,” he said. “You take what you can get and be happy for it. Dawson Creek and area has always been good to us, and my lights are still on and we still have heat, so I’m still paying the bills and we’re still here.”
One might think Christmastime would be boon for flower shops, but not so this year, said Sandra Mertin, owner/general manager of Schrader’s Flowers at 1014 102 Avenue. She said the coolers where she stores her flowers have remained mostly full because business just hasn’t been where it has been in the past.
“It has been down by about two-thirds,” she said.
Mertin said she is not sure if it is a sluggish economy, unseasonable weather, or a combination of both, but sales this holiday season have struggled. She said some of the larger businesses that buy floral arrangements for their employees or for banquets just haven’t been placing those orders this year.
She said Christmas is usually one of the busiest times of the year for her, as they have all sorts of seasonal floral arrangements, wreaths, table centrepieces and even decorated Christmas trees to fit the season, and any kind of budget. However, she said with the usually mild weather and little snowfall lately, maybe some customers are just not in the Christmas spirit.
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