Sales up slightly in Nanaimo during Christmas

Nanaimo residents gave their Interac and credit cards a workout this Christmas season, which retailers are happy with.  - CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin
Nanaimo residents gave their Interac and credit cards a workout this Christmas season, which retailers are happy with.
— image credit: CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Retailers always harbour high hopes for Christmas sales and while predicting how the season will pan out can be a bit of a gamble, this year it seems like Lady Luck lent a hand rolling the dice.

Merchants are reporting sales and traffic were up slightly over the season and sales appeared to be concentrated on specific item categories.

Stephane Pilon, general manager of Canadian Tire Nanaimo, said business over previous Christmas seasons was up notably.

Stand out dates included Red Thursday (Nov. 28), which got the jump start on Black Friday sales across Canada and the U.S.

“Black Friday was also a very good success,” Pilon said. “The rest was good, but especially around that time.”

Hot items over Christmas were anything to do with Christmas, such as trees, ornaments and especially Christmas light sets.

Traffic through the store was up only slightly compared to previous years, but the real gains came in actual sales as each customer spent more cash than in previous years.

Joel Sked, general manager at Tom Lee Music, said sales overall didn’t rise much over previous years - about two to three per cent - but they were good and have been good for the last several years.

Buying patterns changed this year, though, with customers shunning mid-price merchandise.

“Almost no one was buying mid level stuff,” Sked said. “It was split between high-end stuff and more affordable stuff.”

Hot items included products and accessories associated to computer-based music technology, electronic keyboards and acoustic guitars.

Stores specializing in home decor and gadgets did well, too.

Al Ehrenberg, owner/operator of Gone Fishin’, also reported sales were up at his stores, including the Nanaimo outlet.

Gone Fishin’ specializes in equipment, accessories, supplies and clothing for sport fishing, hunting and target shooting.

Gift items clothes and fishing gear were on a lot of Christmas wish lists. Higher-end items that proved popular included Islander Precision Reels, which range in price up to several hundred dollars.

“That’s a really nice reel for people who already have everything,” Ehrenberg said.

Scotty Prawn Pullers, Bradley Smoker models, rod and reel combinations, hip waders, t-shirts, Under Armour hoodies and hunting camouflage all made up the mix of top selling items over the Christmas season.

“So, yes, it was very buoyant,” Ehrenberg said. “It was good and we had a good Boxing Day as well.”

Quintessential Fashions on Victoria Crescent reports business was down compared to 2012’s holiday season.

Store manager Angela Kingshott said shoppers seemed to wait until just before Christmas before committing to purchases.

“The beginning of the Christmas season was slow, but then it started to pick up, but it still wasn’t as good as last year,” Kingshott said.

Items that were selling included purses - the store’s line of Matt and Nat bags and purses were popular items - wallets, jewelry and some clothing.

“Of course scarves and stuff always do well for gift ideas,” Kingshott said.

Heather Wetmore, store manager for the Flying Fish in downtown Nanaimo, declined to publicly discuss figures, but said business was up substantially this year in sales and traffic.

“It started and then it kind of stalled and then it went full bore,” Wetmore said. “The last two weeks before Christmas was just amazing and I think that’s what you’re going to find from everybody in the area here – downtown anyway.”

Christmas ornaments, jewellery, stocking stuffers and small kitchen gadgets were big sellers.

“Kitchen gadgets – oh, my God,” Wetmore said. ‘Kitchen gadgetry is just, like, something else and, surprisingly, seasonal home decor – little things that you set out to bring the Christmas spirit.”

The rush to buy kept the store ordering product until the final few days before Christmas. Even a day of snow didn’t affect sales.

Wetmore said the jump in sales – many businesses have struggled in the downtown core since 2008 – bodes well for downtown Nanaimo and she credits much of the new business activity to customers being drawn downtown for Christmas events, such as the Festival of Trees and the Santa Parade, Santa Workshop and others.

“It’s been a struggle for everybody,” Wetmore said. “When I say struggle I mean, we’ve held our ground – there’s no doubt about it – we haven’t lost ground, but … I sort of look upon it as a real gift and a turning point for the season, so I can only hope it will be just as good next year.”

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