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Holiday season sales ‘nice’ for retailers

Gibby's Wine Den employee Patti Anselme (right) assists Mike Bila on Monday as he picks out a gift for his brother in Geneva.
Gibby's Wine Den employee Patti Anselme (right) assists Mike Bila on Monday as he picks out a gift for his brother in Geneva.

Jim Petterec doesn’t know how many of the rings he sold last month ended up under an evergreen tree in homes in the Tri-Cities or how many served as the traditional centerpiece of a romantic evening.

But Petterec, owner of JP Jewelers in St. Charles, said regardless of their destination or the mode of delivery, he sold a few more of his precious metal and gemstone creations than in years past, making for a more joyous holiday celebration for him.

“We had a nice, brisk December,” Petterec said. “We’re still looking over numbers, but from what we can tell, it seems to be one of the better ones we’ve had in the past five or six years.”

Across the Tri-Cities, retailers are tallying their sales numbers from the past holiday season.

And whether they like what they see depends largely on when they made their sales and what their expectations may have been.

Nationally, published reports indicate sales increases ranging from less than 1 percent to as much as 9 percent at various retailers.

Some retail sales tracking firms have not issued reports on the past holiday shopping season. ShopperTrak, for instance, is scheduled to release its report next week, which will track sales made through Dec. 29.

But early reports indicated retailers benefited, in some measure, from a late surge of shoppers packing stores in the days before Christmas.

ShopperTrak reported that in the week ending Dec. 22, sales increased 39 percent and traffic increased 32 percent from the previous week, when retailers slashed prices in an effort to draw in customers.

While it succeeded in luring customers, the effort likely dampened retailers’ expectations for the season.

ShopperTrak also noted sales were down that week about 2.5 percent compared to the same week in 2011.

Retailers had entered the holiday season with expectations for solid growth this year, after more shoppers headed to stores in the weekend after Thanksgiving this year.

Locally, retailers had hoped the holiday season would bolster their sales from a lackluster summer.

According to sales tax data published by the Illinois Department of Revenue, retail sales in the Tri-Cities of St. Charles, Geneva and Batavia were essentially flat, increasing about 0.2 percent in the third quarter of 2012 – the months of July, August and September – compared to the same period the year before.

Local retailers noted they rolled out promotions and other methods to drive sales this year.

At JP Jewelers, for instance, Petterec said he mailed “gift certificates” to customers and published a catalog that he said “worked out well” in boosting sales.

And at Gibby’s Wine Den in Geneva, owner Jan Gibson said her store used a 12 Days of Christmas promotion to bring in customers. During the promotion, which began Dec. 12 – or 12-12-12 – and ended Christmas Eve, the shop offered customers the chance to sample and buy certain items each day, including varieties of wine, beer, accessories and other items.

“We had different people coming in each day asking what our special item was that day,” Gibson said. “It definitely got people talking.”

While Gibson still was running her totals for the season, she believed the holiday season would go down as one of the best among the recent years.

The store has been open eight years, and Gibson doubts it will turn out as well as years in the mid-2000s. But she said, it also likely will mark a significant improvement from the deep recession years of 2008-10.

Just like Petterec, Gibson sells products that are marketable year-round. But she and Petterec noted that they, like all retailers, rely on the Christmas season for a large portion of their business.

At JP Jewelers, Petterec said the season accounts for about 25 to 30 percent of his annual sales.

“People don’t realize this, I think, but we actually sell more engagement rings from Thanksgiving to New Year’s then we do any other time of the year,” Petterec said. “So the holidays are kind of a make-or-break time for us, too.”

This year, the retailers said the holidays appear to have helped them make it.

“We had good traffic, and good orders,” Gibson said. “I haven’t figured up all my numbers, but I can tell you it was a very nice season.”

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