Holiday sales start slow, but local merchants hopeful

by Bill Nachman - Posted on Dec 01, 2010 - 06:14 PM

Photo: Family Dollar, located at York River Crossing Shopping Center, Hayes, has seen steady holiday traffic, manager Pam Norman said. Shoppers, from left, Mary Jorgensen and Randi Riggs are shown with Norman and sales associate Tracy Sawyer. Photo by Bill Nachman.

Family Dollar, located at York River Crossing Shopping Center, Hayes, has seen steady holiday traffic, manager Pam Norman said. Shoppers, from left, Mary Jorgensen and Randi Riggs are shown with Norman and sales associate Tracy Sawyer. Photo by Bill Nachman.

A random check of some Gloucester and Mathews businesses on Tuesday showed overall business off at many, but most merchants were hopeful that the Christmas shopping season will help buffer them during a relatively bad year.

Meanwhile, a sampling of shoppers found that many were planning to spend about the same as last year, with many looking for bargains and practical gifts.

In Mathews, several merchants said they benefited from the Open Studio Tour last weekend, which brought locals and out-of-town guests into the community to tour and shop. Also, several shopkeepers said that they benefited from the first Small Business Saturday, a shop local event launched to buffer the Black Friday mega-store promotions.

"It was a very busy weekend," said Karyn Austin, owner of Dilly Dally Emporium on Main Street, Mathews. Big sellers included "a lot of holiday décor," she said, as well as educational-inspired toys and jewelry.

"A lot of people said they came in to shop to support the Small Business Saturday," Austin said.

In Gloucester, Virginia-made wines and other products are selling well at Kelsick Specialty Market on Main Street, owner Beth Haskell said. Seasonal beers are also moving well, such as one made of pumpkin, as is mead, a fermented honey wine.

Kelsick sold a lot of cooked turkeys for Thanksgiving, and many customers purchased full dinners with all the fixings. A new product line that’s moving well is Homestead, a Roanoke area company whose dairy products are liked because they are both good and are offered in environmentally friendly recyclable containers, Haskell said, with eggnog and boiled custard two favorites.