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Retailers forecast a merry holiday shopping season

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Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Jim Daley, right, co-owner of Present, said this year’s Holiday Stroll proved the shop’s single busiest sales day of 2013.

If you ask downtown retailers how business has been, most will respond that sales are on the upswing.

“So far things are steady,” said Belinda Chung of BK Collections, a specialty gift and jewelry shop in business in Los Altos for 35 years. “People are picking things up and buying them.”

Chung’s regular customers are already visiting the store to purchase hand-blown glass ornaments for their children and grandchildren, but she said it’s a little too early to predict overall sales for the holiday season.

Consumer spending in Los Altos has remained relatively steady year-to-year at just below $2,000 per capita, according to the city of Los Altos’ sales tax data for the second quarter of 2013 (April through June).

Restaurants and consumer-goods sectors saw the highest increase over 2012 numbers at 23 percent and 26 percent, respectively.

Family apparel, women’s apparel, sporting goods and restaurants serving no alcohol all experienced increases in sales of more than 20 percent – a number that exceeds county and state increases by more than double digits.

The city has yet to release its third-quarter results.

Proof in the pudding

The city’s revenue data rings true for many retailers, including Jim Daley, co-owner of Present, an artisanal food, beauty and spa business that has been in Los Altos for just more than a year.

“We tripled what we did last year,” said Daley of sales during the Holiday Stroll in comparison to last year.

The Nov. 8 Holiday Stroll was the shop’s busiest day of the year, and Daley is struggling to get products out of boxes and onto shelves fast enough. Even though he ordered three times more inventory this year than last, he’s already had to reorder more product for the holiday season.

High-end businesses, including jewelry retailer Smythe & Cross, are also experiencing indications of a positive holiday sales season. President Khatchig Jingirian Jr. reports a steady increase in shoppers and sales. More customers are making early seasonal purchases, a trend that is unusual for his business. Khatchig expects a fair share of men rushing into the store to purchase last-minute gifts in the two to three weeks before Christmas.

“I want to be in the position to have to camp out back because business is so good,” he said.

Restaurants are also seeing more green this season. With two rooms to fill, First & Main Sports Lounge is booking more parties this year, according to owner Jeff Weinberg.

“It’s the time of year when people need to escape the office or out-of-town guests,” he said.

With so many sports on the schedule and holiday-themed beverages on the menu, Weinberg expects to keep busy this season.

Although overall reaction to the economic data and retailer interviews conducted by the Town Crier were positive, some retailers lament the lost sales opportunities attributable to ongoing construction projects along First and State streets and the shortage of downtown parking at peak times of day.

Chung said most of her loyal shoppers overlook the obstacles because they take pride in patronizing local businesses.

“The best part of running a small business is making connections with people,” Chung said of the second-generation customers who return to the store to purchase holiday gifts. “For the community to survive, they need to support us.”

Small businesses open their doors for holiday shoppers - Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier

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