Anchorage stores report shortages of some Christmas items

Posted: Tuesday, December 18, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- With a week left until Christmas, Anchorage residents will have to hurry if they hope to pick up many of the trappings of Christmas, from tinsel to trees.

Area retailers from Wal-Mart to Kmart to Fred Meyer are reporting spot outages of items that make Christmas look like Christmas.

This year's run on red and blue lights was a no-brainer, but why is Anchorage running so low on Christmas tree stands?

Partly because holiday orders are placed far in advance and reordering is difficult or impossible. Also partly because exact customer demand is a mystery that retailers must predict each year.

Take icicle lights.

''Remember everybody ran out two years ago?'' asked Pam Marcheski, district manager for Sears. ''Last year we had so many left over.''

And tree stands.

Last year, rotating stands were expected to make customers grab for their debit cards, Marcheski said.

''It was not quite as hot as we expected,'' she said. ''It's hard to predict what the hot sellers are going to be.''

Marcheski said Sears is almost out of stands this year but has plenty of lighting, partly because of last year's leftovers.

Alaska Mill & Feed Co. had 200 Christmas trees left over last year, said assistant store manager Pete Hitchings. This year? They ran out on Sunday. But they do have a few tree stands left.

''It's somewhat of a guessing game,'' he said. ''An educated guess.''

At The Home Depot, the problem is the opposite from Mill & Feed's: no more stands at the Anchorage store but plenty of trees.

Orders for Christmas items are based on the previous year's sales, managers said. Loren Sphar, store manager for Lowe's, said the company orders 10 to 20 percent more than last year's sales.

''It depends on a gut feeling,'' Sphar said.

Big-box chains like Lowe's place one order for hundreds of stores nationwide, so how many units a store gets also depends on how that order is split among stores.

The process depends on the item, said Andrew Pelletier, garden manager at The Home Depot in Anchorage for four years. Pelletier orders trees; the company allots stands.

Will more Christmas paraphernalia come in during the next week? Big retailers said Christmas items are ordered several months in advance so reordering is not an option.

Besides, the object is to be sold out by closing time Christmas Eve.

''It's pretty much a one-time shot,'' Sphar said of ordering for the holidays.

One of the few outlets reporting patriotic red and blue lights still in stock is Anchorage-based greenhouse The Green Connection. The company does commercial holiday lighting and was able to get a post-Sept. 11 order partially filled, said Green Connection's Gary Schaefer. He said he has plenty of trees and stands too.

''Looks like this year we hit it right,'' he said.

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