Businesses optimistic despite prediction holiday sales may fall

Monday, October 19, 2009
Virginia and Dave Brewer of Charleston, Mo., take turns sampling scented candles Friday afternoon at the Yule Log Cabin south of Scott City. Owner Joannie Smith said business has been better than usual this early in the season. (Kit Doyle)

Despite predictions that this Christmas may be less than merry for retailers, area businesses are hoping for the best.

The National Retail Federation earlier this month predicted Christmas holiday sales will drop for the second consecutive year. The Washington, D.C.-based trade association said sales in November and December will drop by 1 percent to $437.6 billion. Holiday sales in 2008 declined by 3.4 percent compared to 2007.

"If our sales that were up 32 percent two weeks ago are any indication, we're in for a great shopping season," said Terri Calvert, assistant store manager at J.C. Penney. "The cold weather seems to have gotten people in the holiday spirit. We're optimistic for what lies ahead."

Likewise at Target in Cape Girardeau. Store manager Emily Zimmerman said she believes the store will surpass last year's sales figures. She said that last year her location did not see a decline in sales from 2007.

"Those stores that are successful are the ones that have great customer service and the right marketing approach to bring in shoppers," Zimmerman said. "Like other stores, we're hoping to capitalize on what makes us successful."

A corner of nutcrackers at the Yule Log Cabin south of Scott City. The Yule Log Cabin is celebrating its 20th anniversary this season.

Dave Overfelt, executive director of the Missouri Retailers Federation, believes the state will follow the retail federation's prediction. He said shoppers will buy more gifts than in 2008 but that individual gifts will be less expensive.

"With a higher unemployment rate and less money to spend, people will be shopping a little smarter," Overfelt said. "It's a recession we're in, not a depression. We've had huge failures but not a total collapse.

"Our hope is we'll come out of this better than the projections, but I wouldn't count on it," he said. "It could be another Christmas or two before we bounce back. Hopefully we'll be wrong and see a break over last year."

As usual during the holidays, stores will entice consumers with deals, said Scott Thorne, marketing professor at Southeast Missouri State University. He said those deals will be needed for stores to match 2008's sales levels.

"Though the stock market is going back up, I haven't seen a corresponding increase in consumer confidence, and that's what will be needed to get the economy going strongly again," Thorne said.

However, Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce president John Mehner said he hopes retailers will improve upon last year's holiday shopping season.

"I think maybe we're turning the corner a little bit," Mehner said. "It seems like people are in a better mood this fall, and I'm optimistic that help boost sales figures."

Retailers like Zickfield Jewelry & Gifts in downtown Cape Girardeau are optimistic, too.

"Last year was very unusual for the retail industry, and even though it's too early to make any bold predictions I believe we'll have a decent Christmas," said owner Kent Zickfield. "Christmas is a huge time of the year, and people are still getting married, which helps our business. As long as people are falling in love and getting married, the jewelry business will continue to roll."

bblackwell@semissourian.com

388-3628

Pertinent addresses:

29 N. Main St., Cape Girardeau, MO

202 Siemers Drive, Cape Girardeau, MO

200 West Park Mall, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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