Holiday figures bright

Kenai Peninsula merchants report merry sales totals

Posted: Friday, January 03, 2003

As the clouds of anticipated retail doom and gloom rolled by, Kenai Peninsula businesses have emerged to report the holidays weren't so bad after all.

In spite of not-so-great national projections for retail returns leading into this holiday season, poor reports following Christmas and a shorter shopping season, many area merchants said they had favorable sales.

"This is probably the best one I've ever had," said Claudette Barber, owner of the Claudette's gift shop in Soldotna. "I actually thought it was a fairly decent Christmas."

Dan Bolstead, Fred Meyer's vice president of store operations, said the Portland, Ore.-based retail chain outperformed the national trend of losses.

"We were better than what we've heard a lot of the other (chains) were," Bolstead said. "And our Soldotna store did better than our overall trend."

Ulmer's Drug and Hardware in Homer enjoyed healthy sales that owner Scott Ulmer attributed partially to recent growth.

"We had a good holiday," Ulmer said. "We did a little better than we did last year. We're still experiencing the benefits of a newly remodeled and expanded store."

He said the addition of a seasonal department that sold holiday decorations helped to boost sales.

"That was where our largest growth was -- in the holiday decor," Ulmer said. "We had people coming in from all over the peninsula. Several shoppers from the Kenai and Soldotna area told us they were down for the holiday decorations."

Kenai Big Kmart store manager Jim Crist said although sales lagged in comparison to the 2001 holidays, his store did not succumb to the dismal national shopping outlook projected just a week before Christmas Day.

"It was a little bit less than last year, but we were above what we thought we would be," Crist said. "Our expectations were based on that national prediction."

Crist said the periodic change to the number of February days occurs on a regular cycle and impacted shopping time this year. He said he anticipates some improvement next year with a slightly longer shopping season.

"Every six years it changes because of leap year," he said. "We lose six days then gain one. With this holiday, there were six less days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We will gain one back next year."

Peggy Mullen, owner of River City Books and Gourmet Garden Market in Soldotna, said although she hadn't tallied up her total sales during the holidays, she didn't feel the pinch predicted for holiday sales.

"The national slowdown didn't happen for us," Mullen said. "It felt like we did as good or better than last year. It wasn't doomy or gloomy."

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