Although retailers across the country had mixed holiday sales, preliminary numbers suggest that New Haven experienced an across-the-board increase in business this winter season.

City officials attribute much of the city’s success to the elaborate holiday campaign and advertisements that encouraged both New Haven locals and residents of neighboring towns to explore the downtown area. Benefitting from increased foot traffic in both the Chapel Street and Broadway areas, businesses enjoyed what will likely be their highest sales of the year, University Properties Director David Newton said.

Urban Outfitters reported its best Christmas season ever at its New Haven location, and J. Crew experienced double digit sales increases over the holidays, University Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs Bruce Alexander said. Additionally, New Haven restaurant owners received an extraordinary number of reservations from residents outside New Haven, Alexander said.

“Getting so many reservations in the 860 area code indicates that people were coming from out of town to eat in New Haven restaurants,” Alexander said. “We think that New Haven’s holiday campaign, which stressed the city’s art, culture and dining, paid major dividends in terms of helping our retailers and our restaurants have a good holiday season.”

The campaign, titled “The Holidays in New Haven: It All Happens Here,” allocated over $100,000 toward holiday promotions and special events aimed at drawing families from the city and suburbs to New Haven restaurants, retail stores and cultural events over the holiday season. Funded by the city of New Haven and Yale University, chief organizers of the campaign included Market New Haven, the New Haven Town Green Special Services District, and the New Haven Office of Cultural Affairs.

Coordinators of the holiday campaign, which was the most expensive in New Haven history, said the time, money and effort produced worthwhile results. Anne Worcester, a board member of Market New Haven, said she has received preliminary reports of increased sales and foot traffic in downtown New Haven as well as a record number of votes for the storefront decorating contest.

“The best part was that there was an increase in the frequency of regular customers as well as customers from outside New Haven county,” Worcester said. “This means that all the advertising and promotion that Market New Haven did outside the city paid off.”

Although the final numbers are still coming in from New Haven retailers regarding end of year business in 2004, Newton said he expects most retailers to report a better December this year than in 2003 as well as a better performance in other months.

“As we’ve walked and talked to retailers around town, there has been a very positive feeling from almost everyone,” Newton said. “All the events happening on the New Haven Green and the highly visible marketing campaign definitely helped this come into fruition.”