Christmas Shopping Improved for Some Local Businesses

Most Washington area retailers said sales were on the rise in 2013 compared to the previous year. Some, however, reported sales as flat or slightly lower than the previous year.

Christmas sales at many area businesses were strong, a recent survey found.

The Missourian spoke with representatives of 16 businesses in the Washington area. Attempts to contact owners or managers from roughly 30 stores were made. However, several declined to participate, didn’t return calls or were otherwise unavailable before press time.

I.B. Nuts & Fruit Too

I.B. Nuts & Fruit Too in Downtown Washington reported stronger Christmas sales in 2013 due in large part to its new location on 200 Elm St.

Barb Hillermann, who owns the business with her daughter Kristy Stoyer, said sales were “much better” than the previous year.

Hillermann said some people who visited the store this Christmas had never been in before. The new location has allowed I.B. Nuts and Fruits to keep its old customers while gaining new ones, she added.

She attributes some of the business’ success in 2013 to people wanting to shop locally, including corporate customers.

Overall, sales for the year also are up, she added.

Hillermann said there’s more traffic on Elm Street and the store is more visible. She said people often visit the store while waiting on prescriptions from Schroeder Drugs across the street.

The best-selling items over the holidays were Christmas baskets, she said, especially for corporate clients.

The baskets also work well when sending gifts out of state, Hillermann said, noting the Sweet Fire mix is very popular.

Hillermann expects 2014 will be even better. The larger store allows for an expansion of local merchandise, she noted. The store already sells items from Washington, New Haven and Hermann.

Altemueller Jewelry

Altemueller Jewelry co-owner Mark Noelke said Christmas sales at his store were “much better” than last year.

Overall sales for the year also were strong, Noelke said.

Business grew through 2013 as the economy improved, he said, and customers showed more signs of confidence.

Noelke said he thinks people are ready to invest in quality jewelry again.

The best-selling items at Altemueller included the Pandora jewelry line, which was expanded in 2013 with further growth in the line planned in the new year.

Even after Christmas, Noelke said people were coming into the store looking for the Pandora merchandise.

Now, the store has a whole department devoted to Pandora, he said.

Noelke said colored stones, as well as diamonds, including engagement rings, earrings and pendants, were all big sellers.

He expects 2014 to be stronger with the economic recovery continuing. The store also will expand departments and jewelry lines in 2014, as well as do some interior renovation.

J&W Cycles

Bob Jones, one of the owners of J&W Cycles in Washington, said his Christmas sales were “way up” in 2013.

Christmas sales were about 25 to 30 percent better than the previous year, he said.

For the year as a whole, Jones estimates that business was up 10 to 15 percent.

Hot selling items for the Christmas season included youth motorcycles.

Jones said it had been a while since the youth ATVs and motorcycles sold so well, and that bodes well for 2014.

If parents are buying such items for their children, the adults may buy their own vehicles in the spring and summer, he noted.

Side-by-side utility vehicles, such as Rangers and Mules, also sold well, Jones said.

No major changes are planned for J&W Cycles in the new year, he said.

Brown’s Shoe Center

Brown’s Shoe Center Manager Donna Boland said Christmas sales were up slightly in 2013 compared to the prior year.

As for the year as a whole, she said sales were better some months and not as good other months.

Overall, she said business in 2013 was about the same as 2012.

Top-selling items included New Balance athletic shoes, Red Wing work boots and SmartWool socks.

For 2014, Boland said she hopes the business continues to see the upswing it did in December. Moreover, she said there are some store modifications planned, including painting.

And there may be some new brands added, but she could not discuss which ones.

Union Furniture

Union Furniture owner Mike Haberberger said business was good during the holiday season, but not as strong as years past.

“I think a lot of it has to do with the fact there’s more electronics being sold than furniture this time of the year,” he said.

Overall, Haberberger said sales numbers for 2013 were pretty good, but his business is still trying to recover to prerecession numbers.

“We didn’t break any record that’s for sure,” he said. “Business isn’t anywhere near where it was five or 10 years ago since the recession has hit.”

Hillermann Nursery

Sandi Hillermann McDonald, one of the owners of Hillermann Nursery & Florist, said Christmas-related sales were down this year, but it didn’t impact the rest of her business.

“My sales for the month of December, however, were almost 50 percent higher than they were last year,” she said. “It was mostly because of the departments of equipment, landscape and floral.”

Hillermann said overall for 2013 it was a good year with sales up over last year. She said things are looking better, a trend she hopes continues in 2014.

Revolution Cycles

The owner of Revolution Cycles said he’s hoping for better weather in 2014.

Joe Ferguson said business was down this past year, due in part to Mother Nature.

“It’s an outdoor business and the weather plays a big factor,” he said. “Spring was really, really bad weather wise. The industry I’m in, nationwide, was down.”

Ferguson said his best-selling items were road bikes.

In 2014, he hopes to increase inventory and expand some of the lines the store carries.

Three Ladies on the Corner

Owner Madonna Cieslak said business was much better for her store in 2013.

She couldn’t put a number on, but said business had picked up.

“I couldn’t tell you a percentage, but it is better,” she said. “We’ve had more traffic, more people, more everything.”

Her goals for 2014 are to keep sales numbers on the upward path. She said some minor changes are planned for the store, but nothing major.

Washington Sears

Washington Sears owner Demea Loyd said business was up this year.

One way she could tell things were getting better is more customers were buying items that had been ignored in the postrecession, leaner times.

“When it was really, really tough you had the basic stuff going out,” Loyd said. “You were still selling refrigerators, washers and dryers, but we weren’t selling things like water softeners, things like fitness, toolboxes — the things people might have considered not an absolute necessity.

“We’re starting to see those things go back up to where it’s more of a realistic percentage of where our normal sales are.”

Loyd said her biggest plans for the store in 2014 involve potentially taking on a reduced role. The store has been up for sale since early 2013 and remains on the market. That, however, doesn’t mean she’s going away.

“We do still have the store for sale,” Loyd said. “However, even if we did sell, there’s a good chance I’d work to stay on in some way. So that’s a possibility, it’s for sale, but it could be 10 years before I sell it.”

Gary R. Lucy Gallery

Sales at the Gary R. Lucy Gallery were “definitely up” over last year, according to Sandy Lucy, who owns the business with her husband Gary Lucy.

Lucy said fourth quarter sales were particularly strong.

“Indicators in September were that we were going to have a strong fourth quarter,” said Lucy, which she creditd to additional marketing and promotions at the gallery, as well as Gary Lucy’s painting.

The last two years, the shop has held Black Friday promotions, which Lucy said has been a great kickoff to the holiday season.

Outside of the shop, Gary Lucy completed a lot of corporate work in the fall, which also helped the bottom line.

Although the yearly comparison isn’t complete, Lucy said 2013 overall was stronger than 2012.

There was more traffic in the store as well, she said.

“I sensed that people were beginning to feel better about the economy and spending,” she said.

In addition to Gary Lucy’s work as a big seller in the shop, the bridal registry was strong in 2013.

In 2014, Lucy said she plans to continue with promotions and to keep up with social media.

The Fudge Shoppe

Numbers for 2013 were down slightly over 2012 for The Fudge Shoppe, said Kim Lutz, owner.

“Overall we were probably down a little or about the same as last year,” she said. “It was a slower year.”

In 2013, the shop dropped gourmet food from its shelves and as part of its name, but also started a partnership with Happy Apple.

“We’re getting ready to decide what we’re going to tackle next and how to proceed with that partnership,” Lutz said.

The store offers traditional Happy Apples, as well as the gourmet apple line. The apples will sell as long as quality apples are available, Lutz said.

Chocolate continues to be a best seller. Pre-boxed chocolates, which were new in 2013, sold well through the Christmas season.

Lutz said she plans to expand on the pre-boxed items in 2014.

“Mixed caramels and turtles were gone almost as soon as I put them on the shelf,” she said.

Fern & Sycamore

The past year was “wonderful” for Fern & Sycamore, according to owner Gina Scego.

“Christmas sales were definitely up from last year,” she said, and sales overall also were up.

“We got a lot of support from the community and out of town (residents) too,” she said. “It was great.”

Scego said the Downtown Washington store sold a nice mix of all items, but more home goods than she had expected. Jewelry, knives and bags also sold well.

In 2014, Scego hopes to see more customers from Washington and the surrounding area.

No major changes are planned for the new year.

“We will just continue to add different American manufacturing companies,” said Scego, who also plans to host more events and activities.

The Painted Home

Angie Pritchard, owner of The Painted Home, said there wasn’t much of a difference in Christmas sales compared the previous five months the store had been open.

The home decor shop opened in July, and overall, Pritchard said she “can’t complain” about sales since she is just starting out.

The shop, located in Downtown Washington, offers furniture, antiques, artwork, accessories and the van Gogh furniture paint line.

Bird merchandise seemed to be a big seller, as well as home decor in general.

In 2014, Pritchard said her goal is to offer more classes and do more custom work.

Scheer Lawn and Landscape/Gateway BBQ

Scheer Lawn and Landscape/Gateway BBQ moved into its new building in 2013 and business was good, according to Michelle Wurdack, marketing manager.

“We did a lot better than the previous year,” Wurdack said. “We had some time to settle in and advertise.”

Wurdack said the barbecue side of the store did especially well. Customers can create their own custom drum smokers at the shop, she noted.

“Sales have increased on the barbecue circuit and nationally,” Wurdack said. “We’re doing really well with that.”

The store sold custom smokers to more than 100 competition barbecue teams nationwide in 2013. Many of those sales were handled online.

There is a dedicated barbecue space inside the Scheer building, which offers the smokers as well as rubs and sauces.

Wurdack said the landscaping side of the business also did well in 2013, with several large projects in the St. Albans area.

“Our goal is to keep up with the current business and focus on customer service and satisfaction, and to promote the barbecue store,” she said.


Christmas sales and overall sales in 2013 both fared well, said Blaise Warhurst, general manager of the Washington Wal-Mart store.

“We continue to see more traffic coming into the store,” he said.

Televisions and electronics continue to be best sellers not only through the Christmas season, but year-round, Warhurst said.

“We also have customers looking to buy the basics,” he added.

In 2013, the store underwent a major renovation.

Warhurst said he appreciates customers who came in over the past year, as well as associates taking care of those customers.

“I’m looking forward to the new year,” he said.

The biggest goal is always to “continue with our low-price philosophy,” Warhurst said.

Westlake Ace Hardware

Steve Martin, one of three managers at Westlake Ace Hardware in Washington, said Christmas sales and sales overall were down compared to 2012.

For the year, sales were down only slightly, he said.

Martin said the store’s lawn and garden department is always the best-selling department.

In 2014, he looks forward to “exceeding the budget.”

There are no major changes planned at the store.

Urban Accents

Christmas sales at Urban Accents in Washington were up 20 percent in 2013 compared to the year before, said owner Larry Tobben.

More people from out of town have been shopping at the store, he said.

“That has really picked up our business,” he noted.

Prior to Christmas, the year as a whole was fairly flat compared to the prior year, Tobben said.

The best-selling items at Urban Accents included scarves, ponchos, Christmas items, jewelry and Crabtree & Evelyn products.

Tobben said the store’s women’s boutique has done very well since it has expanded.

He expects 2014 will be a good year for the business since after-Christmas sales have been stronger than last year and the economy is improving.

A new line of Lampe Berger fragrance lamps is being added to the store and the women’s boutique will be expanded further.

Schroeder Drugs

Christmas sales at Schroeder Drugs in Downtown Washington were about the same as last year.

As for the year as a whole, business was a little slower than 2012, said Judy Wildt, merchandise manager.

Wildt said Schroeder Drugs has lost some business to stores on the highway and that people may not think to shop downtown as much these days.

Old World glass Christmas ornaments and scarves sold well, she said, and the pharmacy is always busy.

For 2014, Wildt said she hopes Schroeder Drugs will keep its loyal customers and bring new people in as well.

The corporate offices of Kohl’s, Lowe’s and Shoe Carnival declined to be included in this story. A representative from Gamestop also declined to participate.

Representatives from Mattress Makers, JCPenney, Addi’s, Target, Four Seasons Florist and Carol’s Hallmark could not be reached for comment.

Editors Note: Missourian staff writers Josh Mitchell, Joe Barker and Karen Butterfield all contributed to this article.