No slowdown for small business holiday sales

Early numbers show it was a lackluster holiday shopping season for national retailers, with growth at its lowest point since the height of the recession in 2008.

Mastercard’s SpendingPlus Report has sales over the two months before Christmas up only .7 percent from last year. That’s far less than some expectations, which predicted growth in the 3 to 4 percent range.

That flat line, though, doesn’t appear to have hit local small businesses. In fact, it’s just the opposite. At Kathy Hasakis’ LeClaire, Iowa, boutique, there’s been no sign of a slowdown.

“I personally have not seen that. We try to stay competitive with our pricing here at Vignettes, and I think that that’s been reflected by shoppers who possibly were being a little more frugal or trying to stay to a budget,” said Hasakis.

At shops up and down Cody Road, it’s a similar story.

“It’s been better than the last four years I would say. I think that the economy’s picking up a little bit,” said Razzleberries owner Mary Chambers.

The small store owners credit much of their success to the town’s ability to turn holiday shopping into an event.

“We started off with Black Friday, and it was so busy that weekend, and then we went right into Small Business Appreciation Day, and we doubled what we did on Black Friday,” said Sam DenBesten at Grasshoppers Gift Shop.

Whether it’s an organized weekend like “Christmas in LeClaire” or just another Wednesday, for small business, it’s all about the experience.

“Versus online shopping, people get away from being able to touch it and experience that; being out with friends. I think that’s the biggest thing that we as a small town have to offer,” said Hasakis.

And while the national sales forecast looks bleak, local business has gotten a boost from a different kind of forecasting.

“It’s also kind of weather related, and it’s been great for the last two years,” said Chambers.

Wednesday, the day after Christmas had already brought more shoppers, taking advantage of holiday markdowns.

“I’ve noticed that the trend is after Christmas, when everything settles down and the weather might even be bad, people kind of need another pickup and sometimes coming shopping or just getting out… it can be very good,” added Chambers.

So although Christmas may be over, the holiday shopping season isn’t. The final week of December actually makes up about 15 percent of the month’s sales, meaning retailers, big and small, may still have a chance to make up any lost ground.

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