Holiday Shopping Gives Boost to Local Businesses

December 23, 2011
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The fourth quarter – and specifically December – usually draws more customers through the front door, bringing increased sales to retailers and businesses, large and small. Malls and supermarkets seem to buzz with a purposeful energy as busy shoppers search for gifts for family and friends, stocking stuffers, baking supplies and holiday dinner essentials. Flower arrangements, greeting cards, gift certificates, gourmet baskets and more – the gift-giving aspect of the holiday season can seem like a full-time job.

Local Charlestown business owners, managers and clerks are grateful for the buzz and extra foot traffic in their stores.

One such employee, Shawna Pelton, works as an aesthetician and energy healer at Ambiance Salon and Spa, which moved from Newbury Street to its present location on Main Street two years ago. She says the salon’s clients are not only buying gift certificates for others this month but are also making sure to stop by for their own treatments.

“Everyone is getting ready for holiday parties,” Pelton said. “They want to look their best. Many people will come in just to get their hair washed and blow-dried.”

Pelton says that clients wishing to share the salon’s services with loved ones will often buy skin care or general purpose gift cards.

Gift cards have also been big recent sellers at other downtown spots, Charlestown Yoga and Dunkin’ Donuts.

“Our gift certificates have definitely increased since Thanksgiving,” said Elise Wald, manager of the yoga company. “People usually buy class cards for people or packages. We also have parents (of local college students) call in to buy gifts for their daughters and sons.” After receiving such an order, the company will send the gift cards to a student’s apartment or dorm.

Across the street, Dunkin’ Donuts’ manager Hannah Azahaf says her shop is always busy because of its location but that gift cards and bags of coffee have been selling much more than usual.

Over in City Square, Olivia Browning’s six part-time employees are also keeping busy.

“We’ve consistently been growing,” said shop owner Abby Gray. “We’re doing well, especially for this economy and this neighborhood, which is not a big retail (area). Monday and Tuesday are typically slow in retail, but in December we’ll do six, seven, eight times what we normally do.”

Olivia Browning, which is a full service gift store that sells everything from bath and body products and jewelry to stationery and gourmet gifts, extends its hours during December and is open Christmas Eve, which Gray says is one of the store’s biggest revenue days of the year.

So what are this season’s top sellers?

The wine chilling Corkcicle, leather wrap bracelets and other jewelry, ornaments, Frasier Fir and Aunt Sadie’s candles, and anything Mariposa – tabletop décor – are the shop’s most popular holiday items, Gray says.

When it comes to food, party platters are the hot items on Johnnie’s Foodmaster’s shelves. Holiday dinner staples such as turkeys, hams and roast beef will start getting scooped up right before the weekend, employees said.

Next door at CVS, manager Phil Wharton says people are spending more on Christmas this year than they have since the recession began in December 2007.

“In the past, it’s been all practical (items),” Wharton said. “Now people are buying home décor, toys, (and) candy is always a big hit. This Christmas they’re not attacking the sales as much as they are spending money on Christmas.”

Wharton says he doesn’t know if the pick-up is due to pent-up resistance against the Great Recession or the beginning of an economic turnaround.

Back on Main Street, flower shop Raspberry Bouquet owner Lauren Perkins has her hands full with custom orders and centerpiece arrangements. Poinsettias, wreaths and Christmas greens are unsurprising holiday favorites, but amaryllis, berries and window box arrangements have also been big, she says.

In addition to walk-ins, Perkins arranges flowers for weddings, corporate holiday parties and building lobbies.

“Our style is a little different than the traditional,” Perkins said. Judging from the ready-to-go holiday orders filling the front window, Charlestown residents don’t seem to mind embracing the nontraditional one bit this season.