Area holiday sales fair better than expected in 2009


The decorations are put away, gift cards cashed in and the after-Christmas sales have sprouted up. Area business owners and officials now take a look back at this past holiday season.

"It was definitely better than last year," said Jannelle Bruns, owner of Book and Game Co. "Fall overall was fabulous. We were the same as last year up to the day when the snow hit. I'm so happy the weather cooperated this year." She also said the mood of the customers was less stressed-out than other holiday seasons.

"We had more traffic but our average transaction amount was down. We had more people coming through, but they were buying less."

Bruns said the changes in the economy may have contributed to the new patterns and the store's successful season.

"It's cheaper entertainment, maybe they're buying board games instead of going to the movies or going on vacation. Our traffic also was much more focused on the middle of the day."

Bruns said the concept of 'shopping locally' contributed to the success of the year.

"We like our loyal Walla Walla customers," she said.

Paul Schneidmiller, owner of Worldwide Travel, said in general this holiday season has been lighter, but they also help travelers who are already on their vacation.

"They're out traveling, maybe they're stuck in Chicago; we're servicing what we've already sold. This year the holidays may have been down slightly."

He is approaching the next year with optimism.

"We're seeing more leisure travelers, the trips are maybe a little shorter. But I think everyone has gone a little stir crazy, and they're tired of hunkering down at home."

But at the same time he said people are saving more money.

"It's a paradigm shift, a lifestyle shift. We're starting to see an upswing in leisure travel, and we're starting to get a good mix of business and leisure travel. Corporate accounts had cut back, but it seems to be rebounding."

Gary Wiley, operator of the local Grocery Outlet, said, "Our holiday season was good, we are very thankful. Business is up. With the economy the way it is, I think people were looking to save."

Wiley said the weather played a big part in the holiday shopping season.

"People were out doing what they needed to do. They were able to get out this year."

Bob Parrish, owner of the Backstage Bistro, said the holiday season was "excellent, just excellent.

"Compared to last year we are up seven or eight percent. Our restaurant is conducive to having office parties and private parties in general."

He agreed with Schneidmiller that people's spending habits have changed. The economy is different now and it will continue to be different, he said.

"It's a new paradigm, people are not spending as much. This year Christmas and New Year's fell on a Friday, so it was easier for people to take a week off. The mood is way better than last year. And we didn't have two feet of snow on the ground."

Not having snow this season was a good thing, agreed Travis Hottinger, store manager of Hastings Books Music & Video.

"It seemed like it was a pretty good year," he said. "We're up from last year and it seemed like we had more traffic."

So it looks like customers were still shopping, maybe the economy influenced choices in purchases and reduced some extravagance, but area retailers seem to be holding their own. And it never hurts to have the weather cooperate.


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