Businesses saw strong sales over Christmas

FORT FRANCES—Despite the strong Canadian dollar and the subsequent threat of residents “outshopping” this past Christmas, many local businesses saw solid sales throughout the season.
Richard Boileau of McTaggarts called sales at the clothing store “awesome” while Connie Cuthbertson of Northwoods Gallery & Gifts referred to their shopping season as “positive” and that they were “very pleased.”
“In the days leading up to Christmas, they were better than the days leading up to Christmas last year,” noted Boileau. “And I know the numbers for November were better than last year.”
He said the store was very busy, and that he was calling in extra staff to help out. He also said they wrapped more presents this year compared to last.
“So all the hubbub about people doing ‘outshopping’ and Internet shopping, I think a lot of people did shop in town,” Boileau remarked.
He added he spoke to a few customers who had gone shopping in the city and realized some of the items either were the same price or cheaper here in Fort Frances.
“We also heard the comment from some people going to the States saying that they couldn’t find what they were looking for,” he continued.
Boileau also indicated other customers said they were going to shop out of town, but wanted to have a look at local stores first.
“That really makes us feel good,” he stressed. “At least they’re coming in and taking a look before they go. . . . When they don’t find it somewhere else, they know we’ve got it.”
Cuthbertson said she also was impressed residents were giving the staff at Northwoods Gallery & Gifts a chance to locate what they were looking for before heading out of town.
“We don’t have everything—we order in as much as we can—but some things we just don’t have suppliers for,” she noted. “But I’m really glad people are giving us first dibs at it.
“We do what we can to try and if it doesn’t work out, we did the best we could.”
Cuthbertson said customers have gone to her requesting specific items and that she enjoys the challenge of trying to find them, whether it’s an item of particular size or colour.
“I think it really makes a difference because if we’ve done the possible one, maybe we could do it again. And we’re happy to do it,” she stressed.
Partly because of this, Cuthbertson said they had a really good Christmas shopping season at Northwoods, with customers thrilled with the products they had.
Candles, wine glasses, and jewellery were just some of the most popular items there this year.
“There wasn’t really one particular thing that stood out—it was good all around,” Cuthbertson remarked. “And were looking forward to a another great year and bringing in some more products.”
Doug Anderson of Betty’s also indicated solid sales for the Christmas shopping season.
“It went pretty well as we expected. It was a good season,” he said. “We were very happy with it.
“Everyone was forecasting across North America that the last part of the shopping season would see a huge rush. It was much busier than last year at the end of it,” he added.
To combat the high loonie and subsequent “outshopping” to the U.S., Anderson said Betty’s tried to get in products that were manufactured in the States and could be sold, in some cases, for an even lower price than south of the border.
“That’s something that’s going to go forward. We’ll see that continue,” he added. “It’s just unfortunate that the businesses all got caught by surprise [by the change in the U.S. economy]. It all happened so fast.
“September and October weren’t as good as November and December.”
For his part, however, Derek Jackson of Sight & Sound here said although the Christmas season went fairly well for them, they felt a bit of an effect due to “outshopping.”
He said sales were about the same as last year, with a flood of shoppers coming in just days before Christmas.
“We found a problem with ‘outshopping’ earlier on,” he admitted. “It’s tough to tell in our market because the pricing on our stuff isn’t the same.
“The price of a flat screen TV dropped 25 percent from this time last year. So it’s hard to judge where you are at and what’s going to sell,” he explained.
But Jackson added they have a loyal following of customers and there continues to be many advantages to shopping locally, such as more personalized service and simpler methods to deal with any products problems that could arise.
Unlike what Boileau found, Jackson said he didn’t think people where checking local prices before heading out of town.
“I was able to match most deals that were coming out of the States,” he noted. “But at the end of the day it didn’t really hurt us. . . .
“And now the pricing is coming in line again, so we’re hoping to do a little better now the road here.”
(Fort Frances Times)