Local merchants see Christmas sales soar

The Canadian economy may be in a recession but local merchants reported shoppers were out in force here this Christmas buying big-ticket items such as jewellery, DVD players, and big screen TVs for under the tree.
“It’s been super. People are in a good mood and not letting Sept. 11 get in the way,” said Ted Brockie, owner of Brockie’s Jewellers on Scott Street.
While originally concerned about how recent events would affect his bottom line, Brockie said this actually has been one of the best Christmas seasons he’s ever seen.
“Sales are significantly up across the board,” he noted, adding it was everything—not just the staples like gold chains and diamonds—that was being snapped up.
“A lot of people in Fort Frances are afraid to fly right now,” Brockie explained. “But they’ve saved for a trip to Hawaii and Florida, so now they have a whole pile of luxury dollars [they] still want to spend.”
High-end electronics also were flying off store shelves here this Christmas.
“We’re doing wonderfully,” said Jim Jackson, owner of Sight and Sound. “We’re on par with last year and very happy with that.”
Jackson said DVD players and big-screen TVs, costing between $2,000-$4,000, were big sellers this year. The camcorder also made a big comeback, he noted, as consumers switched from the older VHS cameras to digital ones that could interface with computers.
“The economy of Fort Frances is extremely stable over the years so I wasn’t too concerned,” Jackson remarked.
Mark Howarth, owner of Howarth’s Home Centre, said customers there also were asking for DVD players, big-screen TVs, and computer systems.
“It’s probably very close to last year, but last year we had a phenomenal month in December,” he admitted. “It was a month that was hard to beat.”
People also have been driving new cars off local lots in record numbers this year.
“Sales are up,” said Rod Newman, general sales manager with West End Motors. “With no GST promotion and zero percent financing, sales have been pretty strong at the moment.”
Newman said SUVs and the Dodge Caravan have been extremely popular, but noted the dealership has seen a rise the sales of in all types of cars.
“It’s been a great Christmas season and it’s still going strong.”
Shoppers weren’t just looking for big-ticket items. Blair Anderson, owner of Betty’s of Fort Frances Ltd., said sales at his store have gone up a bit over last year.
“The bottom line is people will always have a good Christmas,” he said. “If nothing else, that’s what they’ll have.”
The cash registers also have been ringing at Northwoods Gallery and Gifts. “We’ve had a slow start but it’s going very well,” owner Connie Cuthbertson said.
Instead of noticing a steady rise in sales in November, Cuthbertson said the pre-Christmas rush didn’t really start until December. But even with the late start, she said sales were about the same as last year.
Cuthbertson said she did notice a difference in the types of things people were buying, noting decorations and housewares seem to have been the most popular items this year.
“People are staying at home more than they use to,” she noted. “They’re going back to basics, back to simpler things in life.”