Despite the continued struggle of the economy, along with the lure of “big-city” shopping and the convenience of online buying, it seems many residents are making their Christmas purchases right here at home and supporting local businesses.
Although it’s difficult to gauge just how much local shopping has taken place so far this year, business owners are pleased with the traffic and sales in their stores.
“It’s been great so far,” said Mark Howarth of Leon’s, noting this year is a little different for the Scott Street store since last year they had held their grand opening.
“But it’s looking pretty good.”
“It’s really busy today,” Richard Boileau of McTaggarts said last Thursday afternoon.
He noted traffic and sales this year have been comparable to last year, but that “last year was a really busy year.”
“We’re having a lot of people saying they’re having trouble getting stuff on the Internet this year,” Boileau said.
“Several people have come in and told me they’ve ordered things online and they are not coming.
“So they’re running downtown to fill their wish lists.”
Howarth indicated TVs are still a very hot item at Leon’s, with many people purchasing plasma TVs and upgrading to larger screens.
Some of the more popular sellers at McTaggarts, meanwhile, have included Guess purses, Canada Goose parkas, and goofy animal hats.
“I think that if someone goes to school and they don’t have one, they are going to be in trouble,” Boileau chuckled, referring to the animal hats.
“We’re selling so many of them, it’s crazy.
“What the parents like about them is that the kids are wearing them and they’re warm,” he added.
Connie Cuthbertson at Northwoods Gallery & Gifts is seeing the “tables turning” in a positive way there with shoppers coming in from Kenora, Thunder Bay, and Winnipeg.
“They are quite thrilled to see the selection we have in a one-stop shopping kind of store,” she enthused.
“When I hear things like that, I figure we’re doing something right.”
She said she’s also heard local customers indicating they are doing all of their Christmas shopping in town this year.
“It’s not something people have been hearing for a long time and [shoppers] are just amazed that they are able to find everything they need right here in town,” Cuthbertson remarked.
“It’s very encouraging, to say the least,” she added. “We work hard all year long to make sure we bring in products people are pleased with.
“Of course, they are not just doing all their shopping at Northwoods. It’s the whole area and that’s beneficial to everyone,” she stressed.
Doug Anderson at Betty’s also is happy about how Christmas shopping is going there.
“It’s been a fun season,” he noted. “We have a lot of interesting products for people.
“The toys and games have been really popular.”
Anderson added there are a lot of crafty people in town and, given the rise in artisans’ shows around the district this season, it seems even more people want to try making things.
“If you give a person something you made, it means a lot,” he reasoned, adding knitting products and beads have been selling steadily at Betty’s.
Proving to be hot items at Pharmasave here this year are purses, perfumes, jewellery, and scarves, noted Marietheres Metke.
“We have some days that have been pretty busy,” she said, adding she’s expecting a spike in their natural foods department sales closer to Christmas.
“But it could always be busier.”
Still, Metke said they’ve attracted people to the store to check out the recently-opened “Sunset Medical Supply” housed within Pharmasave, which offers everything from wheelchairs and scooters to adjustable beds, safety items, and other “aids for daily living.”
And they’ve already seen success with many of the products people are buying for their aging parents or grandparents.
“That’s something we didn’t have last year,” Metke noted.
While conceding it’s difficult to compare this year to last, Metke doesn’t think sales are down.
“When the mill is shut down, it always affects us. Not just us but the whole town,” she stressed.
Jim Badiuk, owner of Badiuk Equipment just west of town, noted it’s been busy there, however, and “bustling along.”
“The snow is kind of holding off, which is kind of a disappointment, but the cold weather is here and making good ice,” he remarked.
Badiuk estimated sales this year to be to same, if not better, than last Christmas.
He added staff there had more marine equipment to deal with this year due to their amalgamation with Pinewood Sports and Marine.
“It threw us off and put us further and further behind,” he admitted. “But it all worked out and I’m happy with how it’s going.”
Badiuk said snowmobiles having been selling well, in addition to their FXR clothing and ice-fishing gear.
“We have a lot of different things for different people’s interests,” he stressed.
In related news, cross-border shopping appears about the same as last year at the Fort Frances port of entry, with just a three percent variance in revenue between Nov. 1-Dec. 7, 2010 and Oct. 31-Dec. 6, 2011.
A total of 4,734 B15 forms were filled out this year over that same period, in comparison to 4,423 last year.
Of course, “Black Friday” (Nov. 25) generated the most revenue—$20,619.73, which was 41 percent more than in 2010.
The least revenue was generated on Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., bringing in just $1,157.
Still, that was a 54 percent increase over the previous year.