Downtown Naperville business owners say the Christmas shopping season has been a strong one so far
By David Sharos For The Sun December 18, 2012 8:48PM
Dan Knotter of Naperville pays for a purchase inside a busy Naper Nuts & Sweets on Tuesday, December 18, 2012. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 20, 2013 6:18AM
The Christmas season of 2012 will likely be the first of many where “Black Friday” began well before the celebrated day after Thanksgiving, but the real question is whether cash registers are going to be ringing all the way to Christmas.
With less than a week to go before stores close for the holiday, merchants in downtown Naperville said that overall, the 2012 season has been naughty or nice, depending on your product.
“It’s been kind of a mixed bag,” said Greg DeGeeter, owner of Dean’s Fine Clothing at 226 S. Main St. “Overall, our sales have been about on par with where they were last year. We got a few extra days this year with Thanksgiving coming early, and the fact that the weather has been mild, people were able to come downtown and shop and not have to deal with the elements. But as I’ve talked with other retailers I know throughout the area including outside of Naperville, it’s been about 50-50. Some are up and others are struggling.”
Katie Wood, executive director of the Downtown Naperville Alliance, said she “took the pulse” of merchants the week before Christmas and said that overall, “merchants are bullish about this season, including the last week and even after the holidays.”
“There are about 10 merchants I reach out to that represent businesses across the board in order to get the ‘pulse’ and the reports have overall been very positive,” Wood said. “We’ve had four shopping weekends this year instead of three, so it’s kind of hard to compare apples to apples. Restaurants might not report as high of sales, as people always have to eat, but we’re hearing that sales are strong otherwise and people are really bullish even heading into this last week.”
One of the success stories has been Anderson’s Bookshop, with co-owner Tres Anderson reporting that sales this year are up. Like DeGeeter, Anderson credits the weather as a positive factor in terms of helping foot traffic.
“It’s been busy down here and there have been a lot of people which is always good for business,” he said. “We are currently ahead of last year. I think there have been a number of factors including releases of books by the right authors, the fact that the election is behind us, and the weather. Things like ‘Black Friday’ never mean that much to us. That’s more about the big box retailers and people going to the malls.”
Dominique Martucci, owner of Naper Nuts & Sweets, must have made Santa’s “nice” list this year as the store is enjoying a 16 percent increase in sales and is on its way to a record year.
“I’m praying I make it Dec. 31st, as this has been a record year for us,” Martucci said. “I could cry, I’m just so overwhelmed, thanks to our loyal customers and the amount of new business we’ve had this year.”
Martucci credits a big boom in her holiday basket business and a new account she landed earlier this year with Hobby Lobby and their 570 stores throughout the country.
“We are wholesaling some candies we make for them after I visited earlier this year in Oklahoma City and set up a new account,” she said. “We’ve also seen a huge increase in our Internet business. I’ve just contacted some people who are going to update our website, which really isn’t that good. But people who have bought from us now say they just trust us, give us their credit card, and order online.”
Victoria Peterson, who oversees four wine shops in Naperville including a downtown store at 119 S. Main St., said shipping pairs of wine bottles for corporate clients as well as wine being the perfect holiday gift are factors that have helped increase sales this year.
“We had a killer November, and for us, wine is the perfect gift or something people want for entertaining,” she said. “Our sales throughout the holiday season are about on par with where they were a year ago, but overall, we are up in sales this year.”
Beyond the weather and the extra shopping days, Little Luxuries owner Chris Finck, who also owns property in the downtown area, credits the marketing and events offered by the Downtown Naperville Alliance with bringing “a more festive shopping experience this year.”
“I can tell you that I’ve talked with families who came downtown here just to see the snowman exhibit and we even turned the lights on earlier this year in our store,” Finck said. “Our business has increased more than 10 percent this year, but I feel we haven’t hit our peak. We’ve been in business only five years, and we’ve grown in double digits every year.
“But I own two buildings here in town and have three other retail stores in them besides my own, and all of them have said they’re having a very good holiday season.”