Ottawa retailers see Christmas sales drop

The Christmas rush has been more like the Christmas lull for baby boutique owner Denise Carvellas.

“Last year, I thought I was going to lose my mind,” said Carvellas, who owns lulu&coco in Hintonburg.

She opened the shop two years ago, selling clothing she designs for newborns to six-year-olds.

This is her second Christmas, and sales are down 33%.

“I’ve got less people coming,” Carvellas said.

She’s got company.

Christmas sales are turning out to be a bust for the majority of Ottawa retailers surveyed by the Chamber of Commerce.

Compared to last year, “not all of them are experiencing decline — 86% of the ones we surveyed were,” said executive director Erin Kelly.

According to retailers, the average customer is spending between $100 and $300.

“They’re not spending as much, so they’re tending to buy smaller items and delaying the bigger purchases,” said Kelly.

And Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions turned out to be a bust.

Combine the uncertainty of the global economy with the impact of federal public service cuts that will be announced in the spring, Kelly said, and that could explain why Ottawans have reined in their spending.

“We really weren’t expecting to see an impact this Christmas on that,” she said. “But we think it’s driven by fear, not by any fundamental weakness in our economy.”

Sales during the last two Christmas seasons have been strong.

That’s why Kelly is asking the feds to “move quickly” when announcing the official cuts, in the hopes it will buck the downward trend.

While Carvellas isn’t nearly as busy as she thought she would be, “I’m OK with it. My sales have been increasing every month, except this month,” she said.

“I guess everybody’s going to the big malls now.”

Not necessarily.

Three malls were included in the survey, and only the Rideau Centre is matching last year’s sales figures, Kelly said.

The weather is playing a large factor in the bottom line at Bushtukah sporting goods, where snowshoes and skis aren’t moving.

“Without having snow on the ground, the urgency is not there,” said general manager Dave Morton.

Clothing and footwear are the top sellers.

Sales are slightly down from last year, and December is their busiest month, Morton said.

But traffic is up.

“I think there’s more people coming in, but they’re spending a little less,” he said.

kelly.roche@sunmedia.ca

@ottawasunkroche

http://www.ottawasun.com/2011/12/19/ottawa-retailers-see-christmas-sales-drop

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