Shop owners find sales higher than expected

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 11, 2009

NATCHEZ — For many, that warm fuzzy holiday feeling has worn away, and reality is setting in.

And retailers across town get a dose of reality in the bottom line.

Shoppers across the Miss-Lou confirmed and bucked national trends when it came to holiday spending.

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At the Natchez Mall big retailers like JCPenney and Stage were on different ends of the spectrum.

JCPenney store manager Larry Glatts said the glum economy had the store planning for losses.

“But we were thrilled,” Glatts said.

Glatts said the 2008 Christmas season was actually more lucrative than the 2007 season.

Glatts did say shoppers in his store were sticking with lower-priced items and not making large purchases.

On the corporate level JCPenney’s sales were down.

Spokesman Tim Lyons said the store’s sales, as a whole, were down approximately 8 percent.

Down the mall hall at Stage it was a different story.

Assistant Manager Penny Moore said sales at Stage were down for the 2008 season compared to the 2007.

But neither Stage nor JCPenney would disclose their sales figures for comparison.

And the same make or break sentiment was coming from the shops in downtown Natchez also.

Dennis Short, owner of Darby’s, said while he hasn’t added up his December figures yet, he’s certain sales were good.

“We were busy,” Short said. “Really from the day after Thanksgiving on we were busy.”

He said fudge sales in particular were good this year.

“We shipped a lot of corporate gifts,” Short said. “This was all over, coast to coast.”

A lot of shipments were delivered to soldiers in Iraq, too, he said.

He said the store went into December slightly ahead on sales compared to December 2007.

But without having actual numbers, Short said he would play it safe and estimate this December’s sales were equal to last year’s.

“If we come out flat with 2007, that would turn out a successful year,” he said.

Hal Garner Antiques Manager Nida Lewis said she didn’t have any expectations as to how her December sales would be.

“I just look forward to what comes,” she said.

And what came was to her liking.

“We were very pleased with the Christmas shopping at our shop,” she said.

Lewis hasn’t run her December numbers yet, either, but she knows that they weren’t as good as the year before.

“We felt we had a very good December,” she said, however.

Pampered Sole Manager Karen Linton said the store’s December sales were down from last year.

“It was just a weird season,” she said.

But Linton said the numbers were pretty much the same for the 2005 and 2006 holiday seasons.

“With presidential election years, everyone feels nervous, I guess,” she said.

The revenue the store received was not dire, though, Linton said.

“We ended up doing fine,” she said.

Both Short and Lewis are currently running sales in their respective stores.

And both said the sales are typical post-holiday sales, and are not compensating for any slack in December revenue.

“It’s just a general January sale,” Lewis said of her markdowns.

Short said the sale at Darby’s is to clear out space in the store for new items for the new year.

The story was the same across the river too.

In Vidalia, sales tax collections saw a growth of approximately 3 percent from 2007 to 2008.

Collections for the months of November and December 2008 netted $417,894.50.

For the same period in 2007,Vidalia saw in sales taxes collected in the amount of $403,697.61.

In November, the manager of The Picket Fence, Tonja Richards, said that while things had been slow while people watched the national economy, she believed that they would rush in to buy Christmas gifts in December.

And that’s what happened, she said this week.

“The Christmas rush was late but it came with a vengeance,” she said. “The last three weeks it was almost like everybody said, ‘You know, I have got to do this.’ That’s what we were holding our breath for.”

In Ferriday, sales tax numbers were down approximately 1 percent.

Collections for November and December 2008 totaled $171,304.77.

The same period in 2007, however, saw collections of $173,837.21.

The owner of Outdoor Galore by Cindy, Cindy Harper, said part of the reason sales may have dipped during the November-December period is because people were shopping more with the money they had, not on credit.

“I saw very few credit cards used,” Harper said. “Everything was check, cash or debit. I think in general people are starting to get more contentious and selective about how they spend their money and how they save.”

Another problem could have been preoccupation with the national scene.

“It’s like with the elections, people got scared,” Harper said. “You turned on the news and all you heard was doom and gloom, so people were unsure about finances.”

That holding out may have made the pace sluggish in November, but it translated into a rush at the end of December, Harper said.

“The last two weeks in December was when my business was booming.”

Natchez sales tax figures were not available.