HOLIDAY SALES PLEASE RETAILERS

December 23, 2003 11:00 pm
ON TRACK: Carl McFetridge of  Enterprise considers buying a model train from The Hobby Habit as a Christmas gift for a family member. Hobby Habit owner Dave Campbell has been pleased with sales this holiday season. ().
ON TRACK: Carl McFetridge of Enterprise considers buying a model train from The Hobby Habit as a Christmas gift for a family member. Hobby Habit owner Dave Campbell has been pleased with sales this holiday season. ().

By Bill Rautenstrauch

Observer Staff Writer

Don't consider it a leading economic indicator, but an informal survey conducted this week by The Observer seems to show that local Christmas shoppers are in a spending mood.

Several businesses in downtown La Grande reported holiday sales as strong — or perhaps a little stronger— than last year.

Toys are in, or so it would seem from sales at the Hobby Habit, a La Grande business that dispenses playthings ranging from slot cars and electric trains to craft items and board games.

The Christmas season "started out slow, but it's finishing with a bang," said Dave Campbell, owner of the establishment the past 16 years. "The last time I ran the report, sales were running even with last year. It's been a great season."

At the Mountain Works bike shop downtown, Eileen Palavos said she thought sales are running a little higher this Christmas than last.

"We've been in business here since the 1970s, and we've learned that retail is like a roller coaster,''she said. "It's up and down. Sometimes we have stronger sales in January than we do in December. But this Christmas season has been better than last."

Lani Schroeder, owner of Sunflower Books on Washington Avenue, said doing business this yuletide season has been a pleasure.

"Business has been great, people are in really good spirits," she said. "It's been a cheerful, busy time for us."

She guessed that her holiday sales are running even with last season, but pointed out that booksellers look at the Christmas season a little differently than other retailers.

"People who love books budget for them, and that's what they give for Christmas," she said. "Book sales are steady throughout the year. Unlike other retailers, we don't see a huge surge in sales during the holidays."

Calvin Dykes, who with his wife Sharon owns the Good Things gift shop downtown, was the only business owner surveyed who said he thought sales were down.

"It's been a little slow," he said, adding that he couldn't make a comparison to last year because of a fire that shut the business down at Christmas time.