Y2k Not Affecting Christmas Sales


That ringing you hear isn't coming from jingle bells, angels getting their wings or Salvation Army volunteers.

It's the sound of cash registers -- toting up holiday sales that are shaping up as record-breakers, or at least record-tiers, for many merchants.

And rest assured, as many of those businessfolk are quick to point out, Y2K fears have had zilch to do with it. Not even in the market corners they were expected to impact.

"Everyone thought sales of wood stoves was going to be huge this year," said John Patricia, owner of Ace Hardware. "But it just never happened. Generators were hard to come by, but that was the sole exception. If there was going to be a boom in any industry, it would have been this one."

In an exceptionally strong sales year, Patricia has found "enormous success" with what is for him a brand new, never-been-tried-before hardware store department: Christmas decorations.

"We're calling it Trim and Tree Week," he said, "and it has taken off beyond all our expectations. You can bet we'll be expanding on the concept in the future."

"Our customers have been taking Y2K in stride," said Barbara Pruiksma, sole proprietor of the Family Mercantile Country & Victorian Store. "I've heard them say that if they survived the big snowstorm of '67, they can get through anything."

Pruiksma isn't surviving too badly herself. Her seasonal sales are booming a full 50 percent over last year's.

But leaping sales figures are nothing new to Pruiksma, who's seen her business physically expand from 750 to 3,000 square feet in only nine years.

Her explanation is simple, having nothing to do with cunning holiday marketing strategies or the exploitation of worry.

"Every year, I buy a little better and get to know our customers a little better," Pruiksma said, before casually tossing off a tag-line that many business owners only dream of uttering: "But this is as big as I want to get."

John Lake once considered capitalizing on turn-of-the-millennium gasoline-shortage fears by advertising his bicycles as "Y2K compliant."

Now he's glad he didn't.

"At first, we thought there might be a run on bikes, but it never really materialized," said Lake, who's owned Manzanita Cyclery for six and a half years. "During the summer, we had a few customers who came in for that reason, but that was pretty much it."

Still, Lake's shop had a strong year, he said. "We're well above average." But not well above 1998 sales -- Lake's best ever.

"Why? I wish I knew," he said. "I've given up trying to figure these things out. All I can tell you is Y2K had nothing to do with that, either."

Some Payson business owners, like Fran and George Yates, don't have to wrack their brains to explain their highest seasonal traffic counts.

The owners of the Rim Country Kids toy store since 1995, the Yateses get all the benefits of all the collectible fads which make annual sweeps across the nation -- and which peak at exactly this time of year.

The past two Christmases, the Yates' customers couldn't glom onto enough Beanie Babies. This year, that trend has been replaced by anything -- anything at all -- emblazoned with the name "Pokn." That's why the Yates' overall 1999 sales are "neck-and-neck" with those racked up during the fuzzy little beanbag's salad days in 1997.

While the frenzy levels spawned by the two fads are almost identical, Fran Yates observes, "Pokn merchandise is much more kid-centered. The great thing about the Beanie Babies was that adults got involved, too."

And the great thing about that, she adds, is that the more people of all ages get involved, the larger her client base becomes.

"Thank goodness there's life before and after Beanie Babies," she said.

Sales at Foxworth-Galbraith Lumber are up from last year, according to General Manager Doug Fenn.

"The weather's definitely been in our favor," Fenn said. "Building hasn't stopped, so people still need us."

As far as 11th-hour 20th Century trends in his industry, Fenn cites a huge increase in the use of engineered wood.

"As the product improves and the price comes down, it's becoming the choice of many over lumber. "

Fenn said that might be dull information to anyone not in the lumber business. But out of his observation springs one impossible-to-contradict prediction for business success in the 21st Century: Better products at a better price.

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