The holiday shopping season got off to a good start in Santa Monica – “consistent with last year” – according to a thoroughly unscientific sampling of local merchants.
Tony Ayoub of The Jewel Shop on Third Street Promenade said that November sales were about the “same as last year. Friday [after Thanksgiving] was not as big as we expected, but Saturday was better, so we’re even with last year now.” Noting that it was “kind of early to really tell,” he thought that people were “in a spending mood, but with caution,” and he had the sense that shoppers were determined to stick to a budget.
Todd Swift of Taos Indian Trading Company on Santa Monica Boulevard near Fourth Street said that the Friday after Thanksgiving was “surprisingly OK – a good day,” and November sales were “a little bit better than last year.” Asked about the impact of online shopping, he said it had a positive impact on his business: the store has a website, and though customers cannot purchase online, he can display his one-of-a-kind merchandise and then customers come to the store to buy.
Santa Monica-based Macerich publishes a weekly Holiday Index tracking “sales, traffic and shopping trends at 12 Macerich super-regional shopping centers across the country” and reports that sales are up over last year in most retail categories: “the ‘gifts’ category led all merchandise categories with an average sales increase of 45.5 percent over the same week [November 26 through December 2] last year, and stronger than last [Thanksgiving] week’s average increase of 30.5 percent.” Macerich also reports jewelry up 21 percent and 29.5 percent for each of the two weeks, and electronics up 5.1 percent over last year in each of the two weeks. In the toys category, it notes that “anything Pirate” is selling for both boys and girls.
Meanwhile, back on the anecdotal home front, Puzzle Zoo toy store on the Promenade is “tracking better than last year,” according to owner Jay Demircift. Despite the reduced size of the store, with space subleased out since last Christmas, sales are up. Lululemon Athletica manager Carrie Schneider says sales are “consistent with last year,” and since the store just reopened after being closed for renovation, she is hoping for more between now and Christmas; online sales do not pose competition, she says, as the store carries its own line.
Robert Barrett, a manager at Hennessey & Ingalls art and architecture bookstore, says he is “pleasantly happy” this year and that the season has “gotten off to a nice start.” He is not able now to compare with last year, since he does not have the numbers yet. He comments on the hard times that independent bookstores are having these days with competition from chains and online outlets, but he says that H&I is in the “happy position of being a specialty bookstore” carrying books that “people like to see before they buy.”
REI was not open in Santa Monica last Christmas, but Assistant Store Manager Anna Ransdell says it is doing “really well – better than I anticipated,” particularly in skiing and snowboarding gear despite the lack of snow at local elevations. “We’re finishing off the year very healthy,” she says, referring to the company’s business rather than just its customers’ lifestyles.
The holiday season has not really gotten underway for everyone yet. Ali Attar of Santa Monica Tobacco on Fourth Street downtown allows that the Christmas season for the tobacco products and giftables such as lighters, pocket knives and such carried by better tobacconists are generally last-minute items. “My holiday season is all in the last week,” he says.