The long lines and packed parking lots and overplayed Christmas carols of the holiday season might be a pain for shoppers, but they’re music to the ears — and bottom lines — of retailers. Big-box electronic stores and gargantuan mega-marts are not the only retailers to experience the revenue bump of the holidays; local businesses thrive during the end of the year too. As the season approaches, Boulder retailers are planning, in various ways, for what may be the busiest months of the year.
At 8th & Pearl Antiques, store partner Loretta Lockett winds through the old furniture and jewelry displays to a case filled with festive decorations and tree ornaments that wouldn’t look out of place in a 1930s Sears Roebuck catalog.
“One of the things we have — people love the antique ornaments,” Lockett says.
The demand is so high for them that the shop maintains a display year-round, she says. The holiday season is a healthy boost for business, not the make-or-break frenzy it might be for other shops, she says, but the store does make some adjustments for the holidays. She and fellow owners Caroline Weldin, Gill Cassells and Vicki Andersen put up holiday displays in the storefront and decorate a tree outside the entrance to draw in shoppers, and they keep a healthy supply of antique toys, centerpieces, candlesticks and chairs on hand, as well as stocking more contemporary gifts such as soap baskets and fancy hand gels. They do see increased foot traffic in the store during the holidays, but it’s not all that different from other times of the year, Lockett says.
Since most gardens are buried underneath a few inches of snow in December, you might not think that a gardening store would see a bump in the holiday season. Nevertheless, West End Gardeners sees so much traffic that owner Kim Dunning has to hire at least a couple extra workers to handle the load.
“The holiday season is our strongest season; the second would be the spring season,” Dunning says. “I think it’s because we do a strong home and gifts [section] as well as garden. Everything has a natural or garden theme to it, but we do a ton of home decor.”
Her store is about the connection between the indoors and the outdoors, she says, and she changes her displays with the seasons. In winter, the store reflects the fact that the only possible garden is an indoor one. There are potted bulbs, such as paperwhites and amaryllis flowers, that have been coaxed into blooming indoors, as well as gifts gardeners might like, such as birdbaths, bird feeders, watering cans, tools and terrariums.
In addition, the store just opened an additional room that will sell locally made art, jewelry and reclaimed wood furniture and art during the holiday season.
“We’re calling it the Studio at The West End Gardener,” Dunning says. “It’s 500 square feet, all local artists and art and jewelry.”
At Angie Star Jewelry, a small, 500-square-foot store that sells work by local designers, the holidays mean longer hours and increased business.
“It’s our busiest time of the year for sure,” says owner Angela Tiernan. “It’s a very fun, exciting time.”
She and the designers she works with, most of whom have been with her since she opened the store 10 years ago, step up their craftsmanship for the season. Their jewelry is handmade, and the increased demand means longer hours outside the shop. But they can also design with a little more glamorous zeal, Tiernan says.
“We definitely step up our fancier pieces, maybe our diamonds and gold, maybe some more festive and sparkly pieces,” she says.
The holidays are important to her business, but she says her store’s holiday rush extends into the new year.
“Yeah, I’d say middle of January we definitely have some people who have some Christmas fun money,” she says. “Spring is kind of our time to pause and rethink and redesign.”
Alexandra and David Levy are the husband-and-wife pair that own Antiquariat, the antique knickknack store that has been on the Pearl Street Mall since the early ’70s. They are from Boulder’s sister city, Dushanbe, Tajikistan, and David grew up in a home filled with exotic things, like knives and porcelain.
“[David’s] grandparents were merchants who traveled from Samarkand [Uzbekistan] using the Silk Road to China, from where they brought just beautiful Chinese porcelain and silk, and carpets, that they supplied not only Central Asia with, but also Central Russia, cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg,” explains Alexandra Levy, who goes by Alla. “They even took their stuff to the Baltic area. They always had knives and beautiful things. … So that ignited some kind of a spark in David.”
In the years since they purchased the store, they have traveled all over Central Asia and Russia collecting items to sell in the store. The small store is located inside of a 115-year-old building and is packed with jewelry, knickknacks and oddities from all over the world. The holidays bring increased foot traffic into their store, and one of their two grown sons comes in to help out. Alexandra Levy says the store’s eclectic selection has built a loyal following of customers.
“We sell Chinese antiques, Japanese antiques, American antiques, English and French and Russian,” she says. “Over the years we’ve collected big stacks of really unusual things as far as jewelry is concerned.”
For some merchants, holiday sales are the critical ones that put you into the black for the year. For Manuel Sanchez, owner of the West End Wine Shop, they’re merely a nice bonus at the end of the year.
“I think the wine industry doesn’t depend on the holidays, because we’re fairly busy through the year. Barbecues, graduations, Easter — there’s always an occasion to drink wine, so we’re pretty consistent,” Sanchez says. “Definitely there’s a bump, 15 to 20 percent.”
His customers seem more concerned with buying American wines to give to friends. If anything changes, it’s that instead of the $10-$15 range, people are getting $20 to $30 bottles for their friends, family and bosses.
“I think it’s really easy for people to buy a bottle of wine, for simplicity and cost,” he says.