Many Washington area retailers reported increases in sales in 2012, while others remained flat, according to a random survey conducted by The Missourian.
Only few business owners saw slight decreases in sales, and one business said it would be shutting its doors this year.
Christmas sales were very strong at many of the stores, the survey found.
The Missourian spoke with representatives of 18 businesses in the Washington area. Attempts to contact owners or managers from roughly two dozen stores were made, however, several declined to participate, didn’t return calls or were otherwise unreachable before press time.
Gary R. Lucy Gallery
The Gary R. Lucy Gallery in Downtown Washington reported strong Christmas sales this season.
“People were certainly in the mood to shop this year,” said Washington Mayor Sandy Lucy, who owns the shop with her husband, Gary R. Lucy.
“People seem to be excited about shopping,” she noted.
Lucy said her husband’s artwork sold well this year, especially pieces like “Midnight Mass.”
Framing orders and gifts also were up in 2012.
Like several other local retailers, Lucy felt that the summer heat had an impact on business.
“People weren’t getting out as much when we had the summer heat,” she said. “It slowed down visitor traffic.”
Once the heat broke, in about September, Lucy said she started to see a big difference in visitors.
Lucy said the last four months of the year were very strong, adding that a lot of work was put into increasing foot traffic. The shop utilized social media and improved its website.
Promotions, initiated by Downtown Washington merchants like Thirsty Thursdays, also helped with sales, she said.
Alhough final numbers have not been compiled, Lucy thinks sales were better than in 2011.
“It seems like we’re trending up,” she said. “Once the weather broke people were excited to be out again.”
In 2013, the gallery will continue to utilize social media and implement new marketing strategies.
Lucy said she’s optimistic about the new year, as several brides have already registered at the gallery.
This Christmas season, those who chose to “shop Washington” made a big difference, she added.
“I heard a lot of people say they were going to do their Christmas shopping locally, and I think that is a really big deal,” she said. “As a merchant, I’m very grateful for that, but I’m also thankful as the mayor, because that goes into sales tax that the city gets to collect.”
Mark Noelke, co-owner of Altemueller Jewelry, Washington, said final numbers haven’t been tabulated, but the 2012 Christmas season was better than in 2011.
“It was a fantastic Christmas season,” he said. “It was substantially higher than in 2011.”
Noelke said one of the best selling lines around Christmas season was the Pandora customized jewelry.
“It was phenomenal — the growth we saw this year,” he said. Bracelets sold particularly well, as did earrings and pendants.
Another item that’s always big, Noelke said, is engagement rings. This year was no exception.
“We have expanded our engagement rings and they all sold well, from the inexpensive rings to the really high-end rings,” he said.
Noelke found more people planned ahead this year by ordering custom pieces.
In general, fine jewelry in addition to watches and clocks — staples for the business — performed very well, Noelke said.
“Even if we exclude Christmas, 2012 was much better than 2011,” he remarked. “We’re seeing a nice rebound from the tough economy.”
In 2013, the jewelry store will celebrate 13 years at its location in the Washington Crossing shopping center. Noelke said he plans to update the shop, including revamping and expanding some departments.
Washington Target manager Wes Fowler said Christmas sales at his store were “pretty good” in 2012.
Fowler cannot divulge specific financial information for the big box store, but said it’s been a “really good year.” Target’s fiscal year does not end until the end of January.
Big sellers this past year included toys, bedding, clothing and furniture.
The Washington store’s recently expanded food section with meats and produce also continues to do well, said Fowler, who expects continued growth, especially food sales, for in 2013.
Hallmark — Phoenix Center Store
Store owner Carol Soaper reviewed the 2012 figures this week and said sales were flat compared to 2011.
The store’s best-selling items were fashion accessories such as scarves, handbags, pocketbooks and jewelry.
During the holiday shopping season certain goods, specifically gourmet food items, were up, while Christmas items did not necessarily sell well, Soaper said.
As the calender turns, Soaper feels the larger economic trends are promising.
“The stock market looked good (on Wednesday),” she said. “That’s encouraging.”
In the new year, Soaper plans to mix up her marketing strategy and buck the trend of drawing in customers for seasonal steals.
“We’ve been making our customers wait for a holiday to get a deal,” she said, but now customers should expect more nonseasonal promotions throughout 2013.
Urban Accents owner Larry Tobben said Christmas sales at his Washington store were up 35 percent over the previous year.
Tobben said sales for the entire year were up about 20 percent over 2011. He said 2012 was the best year in his 13 years of operation.
Popular items included jewelry, cosmetics, scarves and gourmet foodstuffs.
Tobben hopes to keep the same pace for the new year that he saw in 2012.
This year, he plans to expand the women’s boutique and furniture display areas.
Fern & Sycamore
Store owner Gina Scego has no complaints about running a business in Downtown Washington so far.
Sales during the store’s first four months of operation have been better than she expected.
“It’s been really well,” said Scego, giving credit and thanks to the support of surrounding merchants. She said they embraced her business and frequently direct their patrons to her store.
Christmas sales were a pleasant mix of everything, she noted. Jewelry and knives sold well as did artisan bags, purses and kitchen and home goods.
Scego plans to embrace change and growth with the coming year by expanding the number of American-made products and product lines Fern & Sycamore carries.
Scego and her husband Cole also are looking into doing different kinds of marketing to bring members of the community into the store’s clientele fold, on top of more types of marketing to draw in shoppers from surrounding areas.
The couple is researching the feasibility of launching a website for the store as well.
“We haven’t pulled the trigger on that yet,” Gina Scego said.
The Wal-Mart SuperCenter in Washington fared well this Christmas season.
General Manager Blaise Warhurst said sales were higher than in 2011.
Television sets and DVD players sold well, he said. In the children’s department, several classic brands topped the list of best-sellers, including Barbie, Hot Wheels, Legos and Easy Bake Ovens. Additionally, the La-La-Loopsie Prairie Doll was among the best sellers.
Bicycles — always a Christmas favorite — sold as well as usual, said Warhurst, who is looking forward to a great year in 2013.
“We will continue to drive every day low prices for our customers so they can save money,” he said.
JCPenney Store Leader Carolyn Bresnahan said Christmas sales in 2012 were comparable to the previous year, but she didn’t have exact numbers yet.
“This was a year of transformation to the new JCPenney, so it was just different,” Bresnahan said. “It wasn’t as complicated.”
In 2012, corporate policy required stores to have more space between racks and less full racks to make it easier for customers to shop.
“Everything looked newer and fresher,” said Bresnahan, of the Washington store.
Like in years past, sweaters and dresses were among the best sellers of the season, she said.
In 2013, JCPenney will focus on new shops in the home and children’s departments. Shops highlight certain brands, like Levi, Arizona, Izod or JCP, with special displays, signs and lighting. As a result, the floor layout and presentation around home and children’s items will change.
“I don’t really know what’s coming. I just know it will be fun,” Bresnahan said.
Christmas sales at Washington Sears were down “just a hair” over 2011, according to Demea Loyd, who owns the store with her husband Jim.
This year, Loyd said she noticed a decline in big items, like appliances, while smaller items saw an increase in sales.
As for the year in general, sales at Sears were up, said Loyd, who estimates the increase to be about 8 percent over 2011.
“I think the toughest thing is that none of us (small business owners) know what’s going to happen this year,” she said. “What I expect is that things will continue as they have been.”
Loyd said she thinks people are settling into the economy as it is.
The past several years, she said, people weren’t replacing things that weren’t an absolute necessity. Now, people seem to be replacing items and adjusting to the economy, she said.
“We hope to continue to do our best to take care of customers and get them the best deal we can,” Loyd said. “Hopefully they will remember that shopping local helps keep us in business.”
A goal for the new year is to increase revenue. “If we can break even or even have a 5 percent increase I’m really happy,” she said.
Joe Ferguson, owner of Revolution Cycles in Washington, said Christmas and overall sales were stagnant between 2011 and 2012.
However, he said road bikes, clothing and accessories sold well this past year.
Ferguson thinks 2013 will bring slightly better sales.
The Fudge Shoppe, Main Street Gourmet
Christmas sales at The Fudge Shoppe and Main Street Gourmet, which are both under one roof, were about the same as in 2011, according to Kim Lutz, who owns the shop with her mother, Debbie Ballman.
Handmade items sold better than items that were ordered in, Lutz said, adding that turtles, melted caramel and fudge all sold well.
“Overall, it was a very challenging year with the extreme heat this summer,” she said. “Most people don’t want to buy chocolate in such hot weather. It would have been melted by the time they got to the car.”
Lutz said the shop seemed to stay busier longer, but she wasn’t sure if 2012 sales topped 2011 because of the summer setback.
The Downtown Washington shop began selling coffee this past year and will continue to do so.
The Fudge Shoppe will celebrate its 10th anniversary in Washington this spring.
Lutz said no major changes are planned, but added “you never know when something will pop up as an opportunity.”
The Art Center
Christmas sales at The Art Center in Downtown Washington were about the same in 2012 as 2011, owner Jane Arnold said.
But sales for the year were up about 15 percent, Arnold said.
Custom picture framing, jewelry and custom-made furniture were popular in 2012, she said.
It is hard to say what 2013 will bring with all the changes in the economy, Arnold said, but she is optimistic.
In the new year, she plans to have more open houses and artist receptions, which should help get more people to come downtown.
Hillermann Nursery & Florist
Sandi Hillermann McDonald, owner of Hillermann Nursery & Florist, Washington, said Christmas sales in general were difficult this year, but not as much was offered to customers.
This year, the store didn’t carry lights, artificial Christmas trees or as much ornamentation.
Overall, sales in the flower shop and garden center were up, while Christmas sales were flat.
The nursery carried silk botanicals, ribbons, live plants, fresh greens and fresh trees.
Poinsettia sales were way up, Hillermann McDonald said. Other best-sellers were silk botanicals and fresh Christmas greens.
The Christmas season overall was better than in 2011, but Hillermann McDonald noted that there was an extra week of sales.
Like other shops that rely on live plant sales for revenue, Hillermann Nursery & Florist took a hit with the summer drought.
“This was a record-breaking spring (in terms of heat). It was phenomenal,” said Hillermann McDonald, noting 2012 was the first year that the landscaping portion of the business had to shut down because of a drought. The shop stopped planting for 10 weeks during the summer.
The fiscal year for Hillermann Nursery runs through the end of January. But overall, Hillermann McDonald projects sales to be down about 2 percent.
She’s hopeful 2013 will be better in terms of weather. A new slogan also has been adopted — “New Look, New Price, Not New: Our Commitment to You.”
The nursery will have a new layout as well as several other changes, but Hillermann McDonald wasn’t ready to announce the details just yet.
Doug Jones, J&W Cycles sales manager, said Christmas sales were up about 10 percent in 2012.
Sales for the year as a whole also were up about 10 percent, he said.
Jones said 2012 was the first time in the several years that sales have increased. In prior years, sales have reamined flat, he said.
Jones hopes that upward trend can continue this year.
The big sellers this past year were utility vehicles, such as the Kawasaki Mule and the Polaris Ranger, as well as all-terrain utility vehicles.
J&W will begin selling Honda scooters in the new year.
IB Nuts & Fruit Too
Barb Hillermann and Kristy Stoyer, owners of IB Nuts & Fruit Too, said sales this year were better in 2012 than in the previous year.
The mother-daughter team purchased the shop in September 2011.
“This was our second Christmas and every Christmas it keeps getting better,” Hillermann said. “We had fantastic sales this Christmas.”
A major difference this past year, Stoyer noted, was in corporate orders.
“We are lucky to have big companies in our community that buy locally for their clients around the country,” she said. “This is also the first full holiday season that we had our liquor license, so we saw an increase in wine and alcohol sales.”
Since Hillermann and Stoyer purchased the shop late in 2011, they didn’t have numbers to compare to, however, they said fourth quarter sales were up over 2011.
In the new year, Stoyer hopes to see growth in new product lines and offer an expanded gift selection.
“It seems like more people were out shopping locally this season so we hope that continues into the new year,” she said.
This month, IB Nuts & Fruit Too is moving to a larger location at 200 Elm St., still in Downtown Washington, to increase showroom and workroom space.
Kurt Brown, district manager of Brown’s Enterprises, which owns Brown’s Shoe Center in Washington, said Christmas sales in 2012 were up slightly, but basically flat compared to 2011.
But he is very happy with the success the store saw overall in 2012, saying some months’ growth was in the double digits. He credits increased advertising and fresh lines of products for the increase.
The best-selling items this year were athletic footwear, shoes that properly fit the foot and socks that absorb moisture to keep feet cooler and drier.
Strong sales are expected to continue in the new year, Brown said, adding that people don’t have to drive to St. Louis to buy shoes.
But he said he is worried about the country’s current economic position.
This year, the Washington store is planning a major upgrade to its website to allow for easier online purchases, and Brown wants to begin planning a store remodel.
It was a “very disappointing” Christmas buying season for Discover Outdoors in Downtown Washington, said owner Ted Swoboda.
Swoboda said the downtown retail location will close by Jan. 31, so Discover Outdoors can focus on Internet sales.
Many items in the store right now will not be sold on the company’s Internet platform, as it will have a narrower focus, he said.
The fourth quarter was hard on the business, Swoboda said, adding that sales were down 10-12 percent compared to the fourth quarter in 2011. As a result, sales for the entire year were down, he said.
Items under $20 sold best, and that included puzzles, cutting boards, playing cards, tin wall signs, wallets and 3-D coffee mugs.
Scheer Lawn and Landscaping
Formerly located in New Haven, Scheer Lawn and Landscaping began providing sales and services out of a 7,000-square-foot facility at 477 Industrial Park Drive in Washington in mid-March.
Marketing Coordinator Michelle Wurdack said retail sales overall were fairly good considering the move.
“There’s been a large surge to outdoor living and camaraderie and more family time outdoors,” said Wurdack, and Scheer is embracing that trend.
Owner Tim Scheer and associate Jeff Brinker’s hobby of competitive barbecue smoking led to the installation of a specialty section in the retail area of Scheer’s building under the name of Gateway BBQ.
Although this is the base year for Gateway items such as spice rubs, sauces and custom drum smokers, Wurdack said sales were strong.
The company did not do a lot of advertising in the first half of the year, but marketing efforts were stepped up toward the end of 2012, Wurdack said.
Drum smoker sales peaked between August and December, for a couple of reasons, Wurdack said. August through October is prime smoking season, she said, and the smokers are popular Christmas gifts. She noted that larger ticket items, such as outdoor kitchen materials or accessories in addition to custom drum smokers, were among the best-selling holiday items.
Scheer and Brinker want the start of 2013 to be “red hot” so the pitmasters and seven-time grand champion smokers will offer cooking classes to whet backyard cook’s and barbecue enthusiasts’ appetites.
More information about the classes is available at gatewaybbqstore.com/classes.
In addition to the possibility of more specialized classes, customer mailers and word of mouth are the marketing methods Scheer’s will rely on to expand the client base for all the services and products.