Area retailers having great holiday season

Area retailers had their fingers crossed.

They feared a sagging U.S. economy — and five-day shorter shopping season — would make for fewer customers, fewer sales.

“We haven’t any specific figures yet,” said Rick Corrigan, general manager of Sears at the Kitsap Mall. “But we’re as busy or busier than last year.”

The Mall is mobbed most days and is staying open longer for the holidays: 8 a.m.-11 p.m.

“I don’t remember the same intensity as last year,” said Peggy Lowery, senior department manager of Longs Drugs on Silverdale Way. “But our sales have been over our plan (estimate).”

She indicated this was unexpected, especially with the shorter selling season due to a late post-Thanksgiving weekend.

“This Saturday (Dec. 21) is going to be the busiest day of the year,” said Stacey Ames, marketing manager for Kitsap Mall, which added 16 seasonal businesses and 15 new permanent businesses — in both kiosks and storefronts.

“The majority of the stores are happy with the turnout. I haven’t heard any complaints,” she said, adding that the kids-with-Santa-photos is up 35 percent.

“We’re not feeling the economy here — especially if you’re a vendor selling those tiny remote-controlled cars,” she laughed.

The tiny cars are at a kiosk in the Mall, and are being sold by a few storefronts and stores around the community. The two-inch cars with their little antennas and hand-held controls are flying out the mall at about $20 each.

Ames didn’t have any figures either, but “We’re definitely holding our own — matching (sales) of last year at the very least.”

She commented that an estimated 200,000 “bodies” passed through the Mall the week of Dec. 9-15. Mall officials expect the pace to continue even after the holidays.

“We expect huge after-Christmas sales,” Ames said.

Many retailers said such sales are already being planned. Prices will be slashed to get rid of stock.

Lowery at Longs said that when it’s this close to Christmas, the store’s biggest sales “are wrapping paper.” She said Longs is also selling those little toy cars in great numbers. “And people are buying baking equipment and ingredients.” She estimates 1,500 customers per day.

Corrigan at Sears said the weekend-after-Thanksgiving was good, and things have stayed good.

“Last week it’s been building” he added. “Electronics have been exciting because of the new (flat-screen) plasma TVs and surround-sound home theaters. And tools are one of our staples. We’ve had a very good season this year: strap wrenches, ‘Easy-out’ bits to remove damaged nuts and bolts, and our ‘talking’ tire gauges have been big sellers.

“After Christmas we’ll be having some great promotions, too,” he said.

Daryl Montague, senior department manager at J.C. Penney, is a happy man.

“Sales stayed very positive after the season’s first weekend — for us (in the Mall) as well as for J.C. Penney” nationally.

“The community really likes us here,” he said. Traditionally, sales are strongest at either end of the selling season. “A lot of people start early ... and others come in after Christmas.”

The Mall experienced a 12-42 percent boost in business after Thanksgiving as an estimated 50,000 people showed up, Friday, Nov. 29. Toys “R” Us and Target parking lots were teeming. Target management said sales were up 5 percent over last year. Best Buy said they experienced frenetic activity as early as 7 a.m. that Friday.

Gottschalks management said people were buying more practical, quality gifts at their store. DVDs, karaoke machines, digital cameras, all-in-one machines (printer, scanner, fax, copier) have been popular, said various retailers. At Toys “R” Us, the Fur Real Friend, a robotic cat, was the big seller.

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