Christmas business picking up downtown

With Christmas only two weeks away, business seems to be picking up in downtown Fort Frances with shoppers hunting to check items off those holiday wish lists.
“With that nice little snowfall we had a while back, things have really gotten going,” Russ Ling of Taggs Source for Sports, who also is chair of the local Business Improvement Association, said this morning.
“People have been coming downtown, spending time looking around, and shopping,” he added. “All of our regular customers are coming to us [Taggs] for their shopping.”
Ling noted some of the hot items at Taggs this Christmas include winter jackets, cross-country skis, hooded sweatshirts, hats, and gloves.
“It might not be really cold out now, but we live in Northwestern Ontario,” he remarked. “People realize it gets cold here and that shows in what they’ve been buying.”
Ling said the various BIA Christmas promotions, like the Santa Claus parade, “Lunch With Santa,” and the daily draw for $100 in gift certificates, have helped keep people shopping on the downtown area.
“It’s just going great,” he remarked of the overall atmosphere.
“Things have been good. They’re usually a little slow in the morning, but they always pick up in the afternoon,” noted Don Patrick of Gagné Pharmacy, echoing Ling in saying the number of shoppers has increased a fair bit in the past week or so.
He blamed the unseasonable weather for the slightly late start.
“This year, fall extended right into November and December. People weren’t in the mindset. Even I didn’t feel like Christmas was coming,” Patrick said.
“Now, people are looking at their calendars and thinking, ‘It’s two weeks until Christmas! I better get shopping!’”
Patrick said hot items for holiday shoppers at Gagné Pharmacy have been giftware, cosmetics, and perfume and cologne. And as in previous years, he added the store has “a ton” of chocolate for those buying for someone with a sweet tooth.
“Things have been going really good,” said Matt Sweigard of Sight & Sound. “Once it [the weather] started to cool off, things started to really pick up.
“Snow is always a good thing this time of the year. It gets people in the Christmas mood.
“We’ve been selling lots of stuff—TVs, stereos, DVD players,” added Sweigard. “DVD recorders have been very popular, along with musical instruments.”
“Things are good,” remarked Dave Green of Green’s Countrywide, adding he agrees with the sentiment among local business owners that shoppers have been starting to get into the Christmas spirit with the recent snowfall.
“And as we get closer to Christmas, things will pick up even more. They always do,” he noted.
But some businesses are still waiting for the Christmas rush to begin.
“I wouldn’t say we’ve been pretty busy, I would say steady. Traffic is down, but the sales are comparable to last year,” noted Brad Hogan at Fort Floral.
“But our rush doesn’t start until closer to Christmas,” he added.
A hot-seller there this year has been fibre-optic villages—in fact, his entire stock was bought up. And Hogan expects poinsettias to start moving in the next two weeks.
Hogan added those shoppers still looking for festive decorations should come by the store next week as he’s having a clearance sale on Christmas-related items.
“[Business] is definitely down from last year, as was expected,” admitted Nancy Kehler of Pharmasave, noting there’s more competition here this Christmas with the “big box” stores in the west end of town.
But Pharmasave definitely has made efforts to give something different to its customers, she noted, adding, “We’ve brought in a lot of different things this year.”
The store has everything from cards and chocolates to board games and decorations. “And we have a really good selection of fragrances and giftware,” added Kehler.
Shopping promotions
The BIA, meanwhile, has been having a theme for each Friday and Saturday leading up to Christmas in order to promote shopping in the downtown area.
The theme today and Saturday is “Magic of Christmas Weekend.” Not only will there be special draws for children, but expect to see Rudolph and Frosty walking around Scott Street, giving out candy canes to children.
And while they’re downtown, shoppers can enter the BIA daily Christmas draw for a chance to $100 in BIA Bucks. Winners will be announced each weekday through Dec. 22 on B•93 FM.
And the Fort Frances Museum is presenting movies and popcorn each Saturday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. leading up to Christmas for youngsters to enjoy while their parents are shopping downtown.
Many Scott Street businesses also will be staying open late to accommodate evening shoppers this holiday season.
For a detailed schedule of store hours, see the advertisement in this week’s Times.

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