Merchants Prepare for Holiday Season
By Ed Moosbrugger
November 16 -- Downtown retailers are hoping that consumers
will adjust to the shock of $3-a-gallon gasoline and concerns over major
disasters around the world in time for a robust holiday shopping season.
Merchants enter the biggest shopping season of the year amid a climate
of uncertainty. Some report that sales were adversely affected, at least
temporarily, in recent months by gasoline price shocks and a wave of natural
But despite these concerns, some stores are expecting a strong holiday
At Puzzle Zoo on the Third Street Promenade, President Jay Demircift said
business has been good so far this year and he expects a strong holiday
“We're gearing up for it,” he said. “We think it's going to be great.”
Puzzle Zoo has been helped a bit by the closure of Toys R Us at Santa
Monica Boulevard and Fourth Street, Demircift said. (REI, a retailer of
outdoor recreation equipment and apparel, will open a store in the former
Toys R Us space next year.)
Still, the uncertainty facing retailers is reflected in regional and national
The Federal Reserve reported that retail sales weakened somewhat in September
and early October in the San Francisco district, which includes Southern
Also, a recent national survey showed that consumer confidence has fallen
sharply, raising the possibility of a slowdown in retail sales in coming
“The last couple of months have been slow since the economic slowdown,”
said Naren Patel, owner of Shiva Imports on the Third Street Promenade.
“Gas prices really hurt,” he said, noting that fewer people were driving
to Santa Monica to enjoy the restaurants and movie theaters, causing a
drop in nighttime business.
Indeed, for a time Patel was closing his store earlier than normal on
Monday and Tuesday nights due to a lack of business, although he planned
to extend hours again after Halloween for the holiday season.
In the face of the uncertainty, Patel is stocking up for the holidays,
when items that sell from $20 to $50 are popular with shoppers.
“I'm hearing from vendors that things are slow,” he said.
Mark Hennessey, owner of Hennessey & Ingalls art and architecture
bookstore on Wilshire Boulevard, said fewer people have been coming into
the store, but those who are visiting are spending more.
“I had a strong last two months and a real strong quarter,” he reported.
But there has been fallout from natural disasters in other areas.
When hurricane Katrina struck “that week was very slow,” Hennessey said.
Hennessey expects a very good holiday season for a variety of reasons,
including many new things in the book business and his belief that people
have become conditioned to higher gas prices.
Adamm Gritlefeld, owner of Adamm's Stained Glass & Gallery on Fourth
Street, said he's gotten calls from artists and galleries around the country
reporting that summer was not good.
On the positive side, higher-end merchandise has been selling well at
his place, and there are recent signs that lower-end business is picking
up, he said.
“In the last three or four weeks there has been a very encouraging pickup
across the board,” Gritlefeld said in mid October.
Adamm's also felt the impact of higher gas prices in July and August.
“Even the tourists were spending less,” Gritlefeld said. He believes consumers
are shocked by higher gas prices, pull back on spending and then adjust.
One aspect of Gritlefeld's business has helped get around the problem
of high gas prices for consumers. He's had some significant action on
the Internet, with two recent sales of $1,200 and $3,600.
“It's nice,” he said. “No hassle.”
SANTA MONICA HOTELS had a solid August, with increases in both occupancy
and room rates.
Occupancy rose to 88.7 percent, up 2.6 percent from a year earlier, at
hotels tracked by PKF Consulting. That placed Santa Monica second, only
behind Santa Clarita, in Los Angeles County markets measured by PKF.
The average room rate in Santa Monica rose 8.1 percent to $261.47 in August
among hotels in the survey.
Santa Monica's increases in both occupancy and room rates exceeded increases
for the county.
For the first eight months of 2005, Santa Monica's hotel occupancy rate
dipped 0.2 percent to 80.2 percent, while its average room rate increased
8.6 percent to $232.16.