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Archive for Friday, December 21, 2012

Downtown retailers see boost in holiday sales, expect busy weekend

December 21, 2012

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We’re now entering the overtime period of the holiday shopping season.

With Thanksgiving coming early this year, there are five full weekends — instead of the more traditional four — between Black Friday and Christmas, but Lawrence retailers said there will still be plenty of last-minute shopping going on this weekend.

“The Saturday before Christmas is traditionally the biggest retail shopping day of the year,” said Joe Flannery, president of Weaver’s Department Store, 901 Massachusetts St. “It is bigger than Black Friday by quite a bit. I think Saturday should be an exceptionally busy day.”

The prospect has downtown retailers smiling because they said holiday sales totals already have been pretty good. Flannery estimated this year’s holiday totals are running about 5 percent ahead of last year’s figures.

Retailers said the weather even has been playing its part well. For most of the season, it has been mild and comfortable for shoppers, but now a bit of snow has ramped up the holiday spirit.

“I think it has helped put shoppers in the Christmas mood,” said Linda Lester, owner of The Etc. Shop, 928 Massachusetts St. “A little bit of snow never hurts.”

Lester also said sales were tracking better than a year ago.

“If you have what they want, people will still buy,” Lester said.

Sue Shea, manager of the Phoenix Gallery, 825 Massachusetts St., said art sales had been doing well during the holiday season. She said she was uncertain that consumers were buying as many gifts as in past years, but she thought consumers were more willing to spend money for a high-quality gift.

“I think people are wiser with their shopping,” Shea said. “I think they really are trying to make every dollar count. Work that has been done by hand, those special sort of gifts are selling well.”

The city sales tax collections showed consumers had been spending well leading up to the holiday season. The city’s most recent sales tax report, which tracked sales through mid-Octobet, found sales in Lawrence were at $1.25 billion for the year, up about 6.3 percent from a year ago.

The sales tax totals were growing at their fastest pace since 1998.

Flannery said he sees good momentum heading into 2013 for the Lawrence retail sector, as long as Congress comes up with some sort of compromise on the “fiscal cliff” talks.

“For the good of America, they need to get something resolved on that,” Flannery said.

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