Holiday sales show little punch

A lagging economy has local merchants wringing hands instead of
ringing up sales this holiday season.
A lagging economy has local merchants wringing hands instead of ringing up sales this holiday season.

The first sign of trouble appeared in September when Dorothy McNett, owner of Dorothy McNett’s Place, compared last year’s quarterly sales to this year.

“Sales were down quite a bit from last year,” she said. “I was really worried, frustrated to the point of tears. (In October) we saw a slight increase, but I don’t know how the rest of the year will go.”

McNett also said she has seen a large drop in online sales, but one advantage working in her favor is the televised cooking show that airs on the Central Coast.

“It’s a great marketing tool, which has helped us advertise our products because we reach an audience that normally wouldn’t hear about us,” she said.

One aspect pulling up local merchants is the influx of customers from areas such as Monterey, Carmel and from the north, they said.

“Many of our customers are coming in from all around to shop, which is great, but we do need local support from our community,” McNett said.

Working with other local merchants seems to be the only answer to help downtown pull through tight budgets.

“We have been talking with each other and are doing what we can to help promote our shops,” said McNett, who is allowing out-of-town customers to park in her parking lot. “This way our friends from out-of-town can walk around downtown, go shopping or go have some lunch. It takes all of us to get through.”

Drapoel’s owner Deborah Wood has also noticed a large drop in customers.

“I don’t know what is holding everyone back from spending,” she said. “Last year after 9-11 we thought it was going to be real bad, but we did better than expected.”

Like most holiday seasons the big kick-off began the day after Thanksgiving, but this year did not reach last year’s levels.

“It was very slow,” Wood said. “But this last weekend things began to pick-up, and we were busy.”

She’s owner had an optimistic outlook based on her sales.

“We have been doing great,” said Sheila Stevens. “It’s been wonderful.”

Terry’s Candles in San Juan Bautista was candid about comparing last year’s holiday sales to this year’s.

“We are down by a few $1,000 dollars,” said Terry Marburger, owner and also executive director for San Juan Bautista Chamber of Commerce. “All the merchants in town have notice sales are down at least by 10 percent, which isn’t too bad.”

The Mission City is waging war against the lagging economy, luring holiday shoppers to come and spend their money.

“We are advertising San Juan as the city with all sorts of specialty shops, especially designed with Christmas in mind,” Marburger said.

The economy has not only affected retail shops, but also purchases for everyday goods.

“They say the economy will be better in about six months,” said John House, owner of San Juan Bakery. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

With California’s budget standing at a $21 billion deficit, House summed up his view of the economy:

“It’s not the best of times or the worst of times,” he said. “Whatever that means, but if war breaks out, all I can say is we are in deep do-do.”

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