Holiday shopping figures upbeat for downtown Naperville
By David Sharos For The Sun December 27, 2012 1:12PM
Shoppers visit stores in downtown Naperville on Thursday, December 27, 2012 on Jefferson Street. | David Sharos~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 29, 2013 6:29AM
The final word on the Christmas shopping season this year isn’t official until all returns, exchanges, and post-holiday sales are in, but on a national level, 2012 was disappointing.
Figures posted on Dec. 26 showed that sales grew about .07 percent nationally, the worst performance since 2008. But up through Christmas, Naperville continued to buck the national trend.
“The word I’ve heard consistently from our retailers here is that the season was good and there was optimism regarding before and after Christmas sales,” said Katie Wood, executive director of the Downtown Naperville Alliance.
Sales following the holiday seemed to have slowed. Merchants reported brisk business the day after Christmas, but on Thursday, the crowd in downtown Naperville was visibly smaller.
“When I came to work yesterday and parked in the structure here downtown, the number of vacancies posted was about 200 spaces,” said Kathy Gottschalk, who works at Baubles by Maclyn, a jewelry boutique on Jefferson Street. “Today, there were over 500 empty spaces.”
Gottschalk said Wednesday’s business was evenly divided between gift cards being used at the store and returns. Becky Anderson of Anderson’s Bookshop noted that this year’s day after Christmas business “was not as good as last year’s” but that the closing of national retail stores like Borders has helped drive sales at her independent book store.
“We don’t have issues with books like something being the wrong color or size,” she said. “I’m not sure exactly why post-Christmas sales were down this year. Maybe everyone bought what was really needed or wanted. But our store did very well this season. People tell us they want to support the independent shops, and they like having the face to face support they get here rather than going online.”
Predictably, those shopping Wednesday and Thursday said they were looking for after Christmas bargains while others were attempting to buy things for others who were overlooked before the holidays.
“I actually stopped at the cleaners and I stopped in here to get a late gift,” said Mardi Bougadis of Naperville, who shopped Thursday at the Ann Taylor store downtown. “I really don’t shop that much after the holidays. I’m usually too tired by now. But it’s not too crowded here yet, and I’m glad I got out before the rush.”
Diane Fonte, who works as a volunteer at the Serendipity store on Jefferson Avenue offering resale merchandise, provided the same perspective as other retailers, noting that post-Christmas sales “were not as strong as the week before.”
“We are, after all, a resale shop, and we attract a certain clientele,” she said. “But before Christmas, things like household items and clothing were huge.”
The Apple Store, however, was packed with shoppers Thursday as it seems folks can’t get enough of a technology fix. A clerk noted that downtown Naperville was severely impacted when the store closed a few weeks ago following a robbery there.
Aurora residents Daniel and Ashley Mooney were among the Apple store shoppers Thursday who came to return a broken protective case.
“We went to a Target store yesterday and found some really good deals,” Ashley Mooney said. “We actually spent more this Christmas because of our son Jackson, who is 2 year -old. As far as Santa and presents go, now he gets it.”
Pam Stempora, who manages the Twist store, a women’s clothing boutique on Washington Street, said that Wednesday “was a good day after Christmas, with the majority of business coming from new sales.”
“I was out shopping myself and bought the Christmas wrapping stuff that was on sale,” she said. “With a lot of things being 50 percent off, you can’t feel guilt about that.”
Naperville resident Meghan Skrien, who was shopping Thursday morning at Twist, said she hoped to buy a few things for friends and maybe indulge herself.
“For me, there are people I know I’ll be seeing soon and so I try to ‘forward think’ and maybe get things I saw someone else get that made me think that item would be a good gift idea,” Skrien said. “When you shop before Christmas, you feel guilty if you buy something for yourself, but now you don’t have to.”