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Holiday season yields modest gains for merchants

Monday, Jan. 30 | By Staff
John Sedam and Kathryn Lamonia take down Christmas window decorations and replace them with a new Valentine’s Day display at Piccadilly Limited on Main Street in Warrenton. Times-Democrat Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
Amy Leach, owner of Rhodes Gift Shop in Old Town Warrenton, had a good holiday season behind the register.

Leach estimates that her Main Street store did 20 percent more in business for this period in 2011 than in the previous year.

“It was pretty steady,” said Leach, who also sells Orvis gear and accessories. “It definitely had picked up over last year. I think people are getting a little bit more hopeful about things. It’s getting better. We just have to hang on.”

In random interviews, the owners of a half dozen Main Street shops reported improved 2011 holiday sales compared with the previous season.

Sandra Packwood, co-owner of DeJaVu, a consignment shop, said her December sales were up about 10 percent for the same month in 2010.

The store did well, Packwood said, despite the lack of business on Friday’s evenings in December when Main Street closed, allowing activities and pedestrians to walk freely along Main Street.

In 2010, her shop “was hopping” on Friday nights in December, Packwood said.

But not this year. “It was dead,” she said. “It was a bust for us. I don’t know why.”

But Packwood suggested the loss of Main Street parking on those nights might have turned some away.

Annette Johnson, owner of the Town Duck, a wine, gourmet food and gift shop, showed about a 1.6 percent increase in sales for December 2011 over the same month in the previous year.

“We were up a little over last year,” Johnson said. “December started with us thinking it was going to be great. But it’s neck-and-neck with the year before.”

For the year, the store did slightly better than in 2010, although Johnson said she’s yet to crunch the numbers.

“It’s up and down,” said of sales. “Some months we’re ahead and sometimes we’re down. I don’t know how to explain it. I think people are still cutting back on what they’re spending.”

“We had a pretty good holiday season,” Mark Moore, owner of Framecraft, said. “Black Friday was completely dead. But Small Business Saturday [the first Saturday after Thanksgiving Day] we had a great day. That sort of kicked off the season.”

Like some merchants interviewed, Moore had yet to close the books on 2011 and so was unable to give specific comparisons for this holiday season to the previous one.

But he said “we were right on track with” the 2010 season. “I did notice that a lot of people who came said they wanted to shop locally. They’re aware that it boosts the local economy, instead of spending on a Website and who know where in the world [their money] goes. People have become more aware of investing in their communities.”

Charlotte Sedam owner of Piccadilly Ltd. Said the specialty gift store had “a very good” holiday season.

“That means we paid all our bills,” said Sedam. “In this economy that’s saying quite a bit.”

Sedam and her daughter, Kathryn Lamonia, who manages the shop, attribute the store’s success to “loyal customers,” both local and from the metropolitan area, and to strong customer service.

“We have people driving out from Northern Virginia and D.C.,” Lamonia said. “They tell us there aren’t many specialty stores like this.”
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