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Christmas shopping reported steady here


Today is your last chance to hit local retailers for those final gifts and stocking stuffers to make Christmas complete for you and your loved ones.

Just don’t expect there to be small crowds.

Businesses throughout town reported Christmas sales have been fair to good all season long.

“It’s a great year,” said Russ Ling of Taggs Source for Sports on Scott Street, who also is the new chairman of the BIA’s board of management.

“Stores are staying open late, people are out shopping,” he noted. “We always have the late guys and girls out there [doing last-minute shopping].

“Things are fine, other than not having snow on the ground.”

Still, Ling said the lack of snow hasn’t affect stores downtown.

“Even not having snow this year, snowboards have been so good [sellers],” he noted. “It’s been fine, a bit above average here [at Taggs].”

Meanwhile, other downtown merchants have seen a flurry of activity all in the name of Christmas shopping.

“Our sales have been brisk,” said Arlene Georgeson of Howarth’s Home Centre. “I’d say they’re up, though we haven’t had the time to compare them to last year. We’ve been too busy.”

Computer accessories and electronic equipment and toys have been the hot sellers this year, she noted.

“Electronics are big for Christmas,” agreed Jim Jackson, owner of Sight and Sound. “Electronics are fun and interesting to get. We’ve been quite happy.

“One of the gifts of choice has been digital cameras,” he added.

Jackson said computer sales in his store have been good, especially since this is the first Christmas he’s carried them. Other things like DVD players and satellite dishes have been popular items, too.

“Our sales have been just fine, better than the last couple of years,” Jackson said. “In December, you sell a lot more smaller things like stocking stuffers and hundreds of gift certificates.”

Across the street, Northwoods Gallery and Gifts has been getting busier and busier as Christmas approaches.

“We had a slow start [to the season] but last week was a bit of a surprise for people,” said owner Connie Cuthbertson. “All of a sudden, there were only so many days before Christmas. So it really kicked in then.”

Still, she admitted that due to the slow start, this season won’t be as good because “some of that you can’t make up. We are down from last year.”

The key to success, said Cuthbertson, is to keep products on the shelf new and to listen to customers to know what they are looking for.

“They appreciate that,” she remarked. “Customer service is important, we wrap gifts. Everybody likes to have that little extra effort to accommodate their wishes.”

And things are turning around.

“Two weeks ago, I had a different feeling,” Cuthbertson said of their business. “It’s a real guessing game. Last year we had people start earlier and it kept strong, but the year before that it was last-minute.”

“It was a slow start,” agreed Kent Oar, manager of the local SAAN store. “But it’s really busy right now. I think people procrastinated right to the end [this year].”

But at least one business that isn’t in the downtown core is having a little slower season this year.

“It doesn’t seem to be quite the same as last year,” said Bart White, owner of the local Canadian Tire store in the west end. “November was up a little and December has been down a little, so more or less it’s even.

“It’s been a flat season.”

White isn’t losing hope for a white Christmas—or at least some timely snowfall.

“We rely on the snow,” he remarked. “If anything, January might be good for us because we haven’t really had a big dump of snow yet. We look at it in three-month blocks and put it all together.”

White said eventually the snow will come and whether he sells his winter stock in December or in January, it really doesn’t matter. But not having the shoppers in for Christmas has hurt a little.

White attributed the lack of snow—and relatively good weather this winter—for the lack of sales.

He noted when the roads are good, people make their way to places like Winnipeg to shop but when the roads are bad, they stay at home.

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