Retailers around the city are reporting traffic is up this December for a solid Christmas shopping season.
“We got busy at the beginning of December and it’s been picking up daily since then,” said Judy Zubriski, owner of Hooked on Books on Main Street. This is the bookstore’s third Christmas, having first opened in early December 2010.
“The first year, we opened up really quietly. We didn’t do a lot of big advertising,” said Zubriski. But by last Christmas, she said, the shop was well known. Still, she is seeing an increase over last year.
“They’ve been buying a lot of everything. We’ve got books and toys and CDs and games. It’s been a little bit of everything, mostly books,” she said adding that the bookstore also offers a bit of a break from the hustle and bustle of the street.
“We have over 6000 titles in the store, so there is a lot to choose from,” she said. “It’s a relaxing quiet place and people can calm down and relax.”
Hustle and bustle is what Kerri Milton, interim manager of the Downtown Penticton Association, is also seeing.
“I was out there all day today,” said Milton. “Everybody was very, very busy, lots of people.”
Downtown is a lot more vibrant this year, she said, with fewer empty storefronts. Milton, who was previously manager of the Pen-Mar Theatre for eight years, said she has been getting feedback that the past summer was one of the best downtown merchants had in years. That trend seems to be mirrored in the Christmas shopping season.
“I got to meet a whole bunch of shop owners,” said Milton. “They are saying they are doing very well and it is a great kickoff for the new year. Hopefully it will continue through the winter, they are doing exceptionally well this year.”
In the centre of Penticton, Gary Leaman, general manager of Cherry Lane Shopping Centre, said traffic has been strong.
“Certainly, there seems to be extra traffic in the neighbourhood, because of the opening of the Superstore across the street, which is consistent with our expectations.”
It’s something Leaman said they have observed before when a new retailer opens in Penticton.
“Whether it has been WalMart or Zellers or Canadian Tire, our sales have had a little lift,” said Leaman, who attributes it to shoppers staying off the road to Westbank; with more options locally, more people stay home to shop.
“We do traffic counts and our traffic is up slightly from last year, which is good,” said Leaman. “Our sales have been up slightly this year and were flat last year, so we are holding our own.”
The mall boasts a large selection of seasonal tenants, according to Leaman, along with having all of the in-line stores filled, adding up to a large selection of merchandise for shoppers.
“We didn’t lose any tenants in 2012 and we picked up four new ones,” said Leaman, explaining that the market for retail stores is a competitive one.
“It is a challenge because national and regional retailers are not looking at small market B.C. We’ve got the lowest operating costs and our sales performance is consistent.
“We’re pleased with how we have come through 2012.”