Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

December 26, 2012

Local merchants report strong holiday spending

Tim Preston
The Independent

ASHLAND — Area merchants report a mixed register on the 2012 Christmas shopping season, with most saying they believe it was a better year than the last.

“I believe it was our best year ever. We’re pulling people back from the Internet,” said Dave McCoy, owner of 4 O’Clock Rock Guitar Shop at 2328 Greenup Ave. McCoy said Internet sales are possibly the greatest competition for his music store. He said he is developing an idea for a local business cooperative he hopes will help other small businesses in the area compete with online-only companies, as well as educating customers about how local purchases benefit everyone in the area.

McCoy said customers seemed to be buying from either the high or low end of the inventory.

“It was mostly low and high ... not a lot in the mid range,” he said, citing sales of accessories and beginner instruments alongside purchases of “some pretty nice things — things I would have liked for Christmas!”

Daft Craft Shop owner Tiffany Gregory said Christmas sales exceeded all expectations during the first holiday shopping season at her new downtown Ashland shop.

“We did phenomenal. We went above and beyond what I expected for our first year,” Gregory said, theorizing the unique nature of her inventory made the shop a destination for people with gifts to buy. “I think that was the reason ... to get one-of-a-kind things.”

With items ranging in price from 50 cents to several hundred dollars, Gregory said Christmas shoppers seemed to find many things they liked on the low to middle end of the scale.

“A lot of it was in the middle,” Gregory said, explaining items in the $25 to $35 range, including jewelry and hand bags, were among her best sellers in the days before Christmas.

Gregory noted many of the customers who made Christmas purchases at the small shop on 15th Street were people who had parked nearby while visiting Fat Patty’s and other downtown Ashland businesses.

“We had great foot traffic,” she said. “I think this place was empty for so long that people had quit looking this way.”

Carl Felty, owner of Treasure Chest in the Kyova Mall, said 2012 did not seem like a particularly strong year for Christmas sales at his shop, which specializes in collectibles and gift items.

“Sales were down a little bit this year, but I was happy because I was able to sell some of my older merchandise,” Felty said on the day after Christmas, shaking his head slightly as he explained “Star Wars” merchandise was again in high demand for the holidays.

“It’s funny. ‘Star Wars’ is 30 years old now and I still sell a lot of ‘Star Wars’ stuff.”

Other items in demand this year included University of Kentucky merchandise and things adorned with Bengals or Steelers logos, he said, adding all things zombie related were also quick to sell.

“Anything I brought in that was ‘Walking Dead,’ I could move,” he said, noting the variety of Hollywood monsters from his childhood seem to have all been replaced by zombie-based fears or fascinations.

Clayton Hill, vice president and manager at Pollock’s Jewelers, said his staff stayed busy with Christmas customers this year.

“We had a very good year and I was extremely pleased with the business we had,” Hill said, adding his appreciation for the level of customer loyalty seen each year, including former residents who make a point of returning each year to meet their Christmas gifting needs.

“We saw all levels of buying, from high to medium and low,” he said, adding the shop also had lots of first-time referral business from people who were sent by other customers.

Historically, Hill said the store was typically inundated by men shopping for women in the last days before Christmas, although items, including beads and bracelets by Pandora, have altered that trend.

“It used to be in those last couple of days that our parking lot was full of pickup trucks because it was all men buying for their wives,” he said with a chuckle, explaining the Pandora products seemed to alter that by attracting more female customers who wanted gifts for themselves and other women.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.