Holiday sales saw success

Even the continued economic recession could not keep New Haven residents indoors this holiday season.

Managers and owners of 11 downtown stores interviewed all said they were not disappointed by their sales in the past few weeks. Eight of the 11 reported an increase in profit from the previous holiday season, though revenue was not as high as Christmases past.

Some store owners said they raised 10 to 15 percent more in sales this season than last; other said they lost up to 10 percent. Nationally, stores also did better than last holiday season. According to the Thomson Reuters Same Store Sales Index, 75 percent of 30 retailers surveyed did better than what they expected.

The owners of the three stores that saw revenues fall during the last holiday season said a number of factors, including the recession, led to the drop, but they declined to disclose the other factors.

“In the past we’ve had outstanding years, but we managed to hold our own,” said Elida Fine, manager of Chapel Street’s Peter Indorf Jewelers. “The numbers may not have been as good as they were in the past, but we’re quite happy with how we did.”

Although store owners cited the recovering economy as the reason for looser spending this holiday season, many said other factors — such as aggressive marketing — played a role as well.

The development of a loyal clientele also played a role for new businesses, some owners said. Tracy Bonosconi, owner of Tracy B., a women’s clothing boutique on Chapel Street that opened two and a half years ago, said sales rose because loyal customers referred friends and family to her store.

“We got a lot of husbands this year, especially on Christmas Eve,” she said. “Their wives tell them this is their favorite store, and they come buy presents here.”

Other owners used discounts and other methods to attract customers. Keisha Blake, manager of Seychelles Dresses, said that instead of offering sales as she did last holiday season, she had a “shopping party,” during which patrons could snack on hors d’oeuvres and taste wine while shopping.

Another store owner, Phylis Satin of Wave Gallery, added new products, such as chocolates and fruit spreads, to widen her client base.

“We now have everything from a $1 piece of chocolate to a $1,000 painting,” she said. “Our unique products and range of prices have definitely helped our sales.”

Three owners specifically praised the steps that University Properties took in promoting their businesses.

“They did very well,” Satin said. “There were TV ads, ads in the newspaper and ads in movie theatres. And I think there was a good response to them.”

Associate Vice President and University Properties Director Abigail Rider could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday night.

Other marketing efforts sponsored by University Properties and City Hall include “First Thursdays,” an event on the first Thursday of each month during which stores have extended hours, and a separate promotion that offers a free movie ticket to shoppers who spend more than $100.

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