Merchants give mixed holiday report

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 2, 2003

National news organizations spread the word – the holiday shopping season overall nationwide was dismal at best. The National Retail Sales Foundation estimates showed retail sales down by 11 percent.

With &uot;disappointing&uot; seeming to be the word of the week for national retailers, Greenville area merchants’ responses to

questions about their holiday sales were all over the board, sending a mixed message about the townspeople’s attitudes about Christmas spending.

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The responses ranged from very good to dismal, with the &uot;goods&uot; seeming to hinge on their locations and sizes.

Although few managers were willing to give figures, in the small, unofficial survey conducted by the Greenville Advocate, the chain stores and bypass locations seemed to have the edge.

Goody’s, for example, reported sales up 3 percent over management’s predictions.

&uot;Our sales were up from last year’s,&uot; Goody’s Manager Ronald Poindexter said. &uot;Going into this week [December 23-29], we were up 9 percent. Our projections were for a 6 percent increase.&uot;

Poindexter said the year, overall, was good for the store.

Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest discounter, reported a merry Christmas season, also. Although the chain’s company policy doesn’t permit the release of exact figures, Wal-Mart Manager Joe Massanelli said his numbers were very good.

&uot;Our sales were definitely up and our &uot;sale-through&uot; was good,&uot; he said. &uot;I wasn’t at this store last Christmas, but the input I’m getting from the sales associates is that this year is much better than last year.&uot;

Massanelli said he has met his sales projections for the holiday season, and looking at the corporation’s numbers nationwide, that’s a good thing.

&uot;I want to thank the associates and the community for helping us with that,&uot; Massanelli said. &uot;It looks to me like the Greenville area wasn’t affected by the same retail slump that is being reported on the news. Overall, we did really well, and I’m happy with it.&uot;

In the Gateway Plaza, the news wasn’t as cheerful for Fred’s and Moore’s, but those stores still reported good news.

&uot;I think we’ve managed to break even,&uot; Moore’s Manager Kevin Houston said. &uot;I didn’t see a large increase. When I look at the numbers this week, we might have done a little better, but I really think we are going to come out about even.&uot;

Houston said his projections were to have a $50,000 increase, but that didn’t happen.

&uot;To tell the truth, things just aren’t too good around Greenville workwise,&uot; he said. &uot;The economy is kind of down right now. A lot of people have been laid off, and it’s hurt a lot of the local retail businesses.&uot;

Houston said the area’s economic slump has been going on for a while, though, not just during the Christmas season.

&uot;We’ve had good weeks and bad weeks, but I feel sales have been down the whole year for everyone. I know my numbers are down from last year.&uot;

That wasn’t the story for Fred’s Randy Beeson. The chain store’s manager agreed that the national and local bad economies had an effect on sales, but his outfit managed to come out on top.

&uot;On the entire year, our sales are up,&uot; Beeson said. &uot;But for the holiday season, we’re down some. I had a sales projection for the holiday season, but with a bad economy, it’s tough to say you’re going to be able to meet that.&uot;

Beeson said he felt the recent layoffs and loss of industry was reflected in the Christmas sales.

&uot;We were fortunate to have an increase going into the holiday season, so that helped pull us up for the year,&uot; he said. &uot;If anyone tells you that they increased their sales over last year, they were probably lying or have just opened a new store.&uot;

Beeson said his reason for that statement is that the holiday season was shorter this year – there was one less week to shop between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The downtown merchants were mum on specifics and they too reported mixed results.

Hot Waxx Manager Shirley Lee said her sales were disappointing.

&uot;We didn’t come close to meeting our sales projections,&uot; Lee said. &uot;We are offering clearance sales now, trying to boost our sales. It was just slow – nothing to brag about.&uot;

Across the street, Greenville Shoe Shop Manager Linda McVey said her sales projection was just to keep her head above water.

&uot;I just wanted to have a good Christmas season, and to have the merchandise here that customers needed,&uot; McVey said. &uot;I think we did that. Our sales were good, but of course, we would have liked for them to be better.&uot;

McVey said she was encouraged by the number of people who said they were only shopping locally this year.

&uot;We had many people in the store who said they weren’t going to Montgomery this year,&uot; she said. &uot;They said they were going to keep their tax dollars here for our roads and our schools.&uot;