Holiday sales mixed at stores in Annapolis

December 31, 1992|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff Writer

The Nature Co. store in Annapolis may have run out of flight kits in the middle of the pre-Christmas buying rush, but it never ran short of customers.

"We're having our best year ever," said Roger Kizer Ball, manager of the store near the foot of Main Street. "People have regained their confidence in the economy."

Two days before Christmas, the popular kits packed with kites and other gadgets to teach youngsters the principles of aerodynamics were back in stock and shoppers elbowed their )) way through the store and lined up at registers.

And Mr. Ball said he had seen even busier moments. Sales, he said, were "way above" last December's levels.

So it seems in other stores as well, with retailers across the country reporting the best Christmas sales in four years.

But a survey of Annapolis' Main Street merchants revealed a mixed assessment of the season, traditionally a time that can make or break retailers.

For many, like the Nature Co., the Christmas season seemed like the ones they used to know, before the economy soured and sales dropped.

"People were shopping a little earlier, and the last week [before Christmas] was out of sight, both in the number of people and the amount of merchandise," said Meg Longnecker, manager of the Laura Ashley boutique near City Dock.

She didn't know exactly how much sales increased this year, but said they equaled or exceeded last year's.

But managers at Heaven on Earth, an international specialty gift shop up the street, and at Irresistibles, a women's clothing boutique nearby, said their December sales were slightly below last year's.

"Last year was better," said Barbara Petrisko, assistant manager of Irresistibles. "Annapolis was one of the last ones hit with this recession." She noted that customers appeared to be shopping around more and comparing prices instead of buying on impulse.

"I've noticed that people tend to buy smaller things, rather than the larger items," said Lisa Renshaw, manager of Heaven on Earth. "People have been very choosy."

At Sign O The Whale, a gift shop at the corner of Main and Green streets, sales matched last year's, but fell far short of the boom of the late 1980s.

"We're doing well, and we did well last year also," said Thomas Tharp, a partner at the store. "We've only had a couple of months in the last two years in which sales dropped."

Stewart Cohen, owner of Peppers, a T-shirt and casual wear shop, said that stores like his "have tougher times" in the winter months, but he also said his sales increased by about 10 percent over last year.

One store that profited from early season snows was Plateau, a ski shop.

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