The tallies aren’t in yet, but Nanaimo merchants are reporting business was brisk through the Christmas season.
Major retailers and independent store owners say customer and sales numbers show steady growth, but not the big surge in numbers merchants saw in 2013 when the economy emerged from the last recession.
“We did well. We keep seeing growth, which is good,” said Stephane Pilon, Canadian Tire Nanaimo general store manager.
Pilon won’t speak in terms of specific sales or revenue numbers, but did say B.C.’s Canadian Tire stores are leading the rest of the country.
“Nationally, Canadian Tire in British Columbia has done the best in the country … you could certainly infer and perhaps say that maybe the U.S. dollar is keeping some Canadians here,” Pilon said.
Joel Sked, Tom Lee Music store manager, said sales were strong despite ongoing renovation construction at the retail complex where the store is located in Dickinson Crossing.
“We did notice probably more late-season shoppers this year,” Sked said. “The amount of business was quite good, but the first two weeks of the month was quite slow and then there was a huge rush, so I think we had a lot of last-minute shoppers this year.”
Technology-based music products were high on Christmas shopping lists.
“Definitely the whole computer-music thing is up and running more than ever … lots of stuff that connects to people’s phones,” Sked said.
He said regardless of economic conditions, there are always musicians wanting music-related items at Christmas and there is no shortage of musicians on the Island.
Heather Wetmore, store manager of Flying Fish in downtown Nanaimo, said that on Tuesday, there were customers lined up at the cash register for most of the day.
She said Christmas season sales are near 2014 levels, which were about 20-per cent higher that those for 2013.
“What I can tell you is that we are up, definitely up from two years ago and equal to last year,” Wetmore said.
She said the strong U.S. dollar has contributed, but couples have been more selective with their purchases, buying one or two presents to be shared instead of lots of small items.
But small items – especially Christmas ornaments, fragrances, bath items and jewelry – flew off the shelves, as did retro games and toys, such as Slinkies, jacks, pick-up sticks and puzzles.