Business

Retail Tipsheet: For some local stores, indications point to a strong holiday season

For several local retailers, the holiday season turned out a to be a jolly one in terms of sales.

Official Whatcom County retail sales numbers for the fourth quarter won’t be available until next spring, but a strong finish really helped the overall bottom line for stores like Paper Dreams and Village Books. Owner Chuck Robinson said the two stores posted a combined year-over-year sales increase of 20 percent in November and 10 percent in December. Sales were particularly strong at Paper Dreams, which sells a variety of seasonal products, cards, gifts and candy.

“For a business that’s been around for 33 years, we were surprised to see this kind of growth,” Robinson said.

Sales at the home decor and furniture store Greenhouse in downtown Bellingham also were good this year, particularly with seasonal holiday products and stocking stuffers, said co-owner Chris Foss. After years of belt-tightening by consumers dealing with the economic downturn, she said the uptick in non-essential items was an indication that shoppers were more willing to spend this year.

At Greenhouse, sales started off slow in November but picked up the first Saturday in December. The holiday decoration sales remained strong right up to Christmas.

“It really was very different than it’s been in recent years,” Foss said.

One thing that may have helped was the weather, since no snowstorms arrived to hamper shoppers in November and December. At Naked Clothing, a downtown Bellingham store, business tended to be busiest on sunny days, said co-owner Amy Martin. She said the Buy Local campaign by Sustainable Connections also helped.

“I had a lot of people who said they were shopping local this year,” Martin said.

After years of rising sales of electronic reader device, the traditional book posted increased sales this holiday season at Village Books. Robinson said a trend he has noticed is the growth of hybrid readers who own an e-reader. More often, people will take the e-reader while on trips but read paper books at home.

As for what types of books did well, Robinson said the store saw growth across topics. It wasn’t just the popular books that sold well, but some that were less well-known. Locally produced titles also did well, he said.

“People were shopping for books that more fit the person they were shopping for,” Robinson said.

What was particularly encouraging to Robinson was the sales numbers in the young adult/children category. Given all of the electronic distractions available to children, children continue to be captivated by interesting stories, and Robinson said there are plenty of good authors writing books for that category these days.

For many retailers, there was little time to catch their breath before thinking about next year. Robinson and Foss, for example, were both getting ready to attend gift shows to begin restocking inventory for the 2015 holiday season. Both said the past holiday season has left them optimistic about the coming year.

BRIDAL CONSIGNMENT STORE CHANGES OWNERSHIP

Stephanie Murillo sold Gown and Glove Bridal Consignment at 1521 Cornwall Ave. to Anna Lorenz at the end of the December.

The store is currently closed during the ownership transition; Murillo said the store is scheduled to reopen Friday, Jan. 9. Once it reopens, the store will have an in-house seamstress as an added service. It will be open six days a week, closed on Sunday.

Murillo, who is expecting her fourth child in March, decided to sell the business in order to focus on her family.

“It’s done well,” Murillo said of the four-year-old business, noting that she’s happy to pass the business over to Lorenz right before the start of the busy season so Lorenz can get off to a good start.

Details and updates about the business can be found at the store’s Facebook page or by calling 360-922-0019.

OTHER TIDBITS

A new taproom has opened at 3207 Northwest Ave., in the former Osaka Japanese Restaurant building. It’s called Hops ’N Headz and is operated by the Kim family, who operated Osaka for years. The taproom has 30 draft beers, with many being local craft brews, said Steve Kim, general manager. It also has a food menu that includes chicken wings, burgers and cheesesteak sandwiches. It is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. Details can be found on the company’s Facebook page. ... On Saturday, Dec. 27, Jeckyl & Hyde Deli and Ale House closed its James Street location, which was near Hardware Sales. Owner Richard van Dommelen said the decision was made to consolidate back to one location at 709 W. Orchard Drive. “We hope all our James Street customers will visit us there and continue to support us through these tough times,” van Dommelen said in an email. “With food costs up and labor costs getting higher, it is getting tougher for the restaurant industry to survive.” He added that they plan to make a few menu changes as well cater more weddings and other events. ... Sugar Mama’s bakery in Everson is changing its retail hours. According to its Facebook page, the bakery will be open for retail customers only from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays. On other days of the week they plan to concentrate on special orders and wholesale, areas that are keeping the business going, according to the post. Once they grow the wholesale business to a certain level, the plan is to be open for retail customers five days a week. ... Twofiftyflora, a cafe that has been at the Whatcom Museum Lightcatcher for a little more than 18 months is moving to a new space. According to its Facebook page, it is moving to 1015 Railroad Ave., which is also home to Onyx Coffee. The two companies will serve coffee and food. An opening date in the new space hasn’t been announced. ... Local boutique Betty Be Good raised $500 for the Salvation Army’s Deborah’s Gate, a safe house for sex-trafficking victims, by hosting a live mannequin display from inside the store window Saturday, Dec. 20.

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