Christmas rush a mixed bag for Pelham retailers

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

The Christmas shopping season brought heavier-than-expected sales to many of Pelham’s retailers, but left others wishing for more profits and higher customer numbers.

Throughout the county’s second-largest city, stores of all types reported mixed customer reaction to a plethora of holiday-themed sales, promotions and ad campaigns.

At the Alabama Outdoors store on Bowling Lane in Pelham, store owners reported profits and sales much higher than they had expected.

“We actually sold a lot more than we were expecting. In fact, the sales were almost double our goal,” said Collin Bemis, the store’s assistant manager. “North Face Denali jackets and Tom’s shoes seemed to be the big things this year.”

Bemis attributed the high profits to a clearance sale the store began in July.

“We had a liquidation sale just to try to get rid of some of our older inventory, and I think that helped at lot,” Bemis said. “That sale began in July, and we really sold a lot because of it.”

On the other end of town, one of Pelham’s newest businesses also reported a successful Christmas season.

Although 2010 marked Stacks Furniture’s first year in Shelby County, store Chief Executive Officer Robert Kirchmeyer said he was pleased with the holiday customer traffic in the outlet store’s location off U.S. 31.

“(The Christmas shopping season) was great,” Kirchmeyer said. “With this being our first year here, we don’t have anything to compare it to, so it is hard to predict.

“We actually kicked off our extended hours the week after Christmas, so we are open on Tuesday and Wednesday now. That was a direct result of the business we have done,” Kirchmeyer added, noting the store previously was only open on Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. “We definitely feel very positive. People are really excited about what we are doing.”

A traditionally spring- and summer-oriented Pelham business also saw a slight revenue increase this holiday season as a result of Internet retail, according to one of the business’ employees.

“As usual, Christmas isn’t our biggest season. Spring and summer are our busiest seasons,” said Paul Visser, an employee at Myer’s Plants and Pottery off U.S. 31 in Pelham.

“But this Christmas, we did do a little bit better with our online retail,” Visser said, noting the business sold holiday floral arrangements, snow globes and other Christmas items.

A manager at another longtime Pelham business said he was pleased with the Christmas season’s traffic, but he “would’ve liked to see more.”

“It was a decent year. It could have been better, but we are thankful for everything we get,” said Jeff Owens, manager of Standard Furniture in Food World shopping center. “Today’s economy was stolen yesterday, so I look for it to be sluggish.

“I’ve been in this business going on 25 years now, and I’ve seen a lot of different economies,” Owens added. “Monetarily, it was about the same as it was last year, but our customer traffic was the main increase.”

Because the store posted Christmas season numbers similar to 2009, Owens said he was “encouraged” to see his store sell about the same number of big-ticket furniture items as it did last year.

“With the economy the way it is now, discretionary spending and credit is something a lot of the general public doesn’t have,” Owens said. “We are holding our ground, and I am encouraged by that.”