Retailers are hoping for last-minute shopping crush

Wilton retailers faced a challenge this holiday season that comes but every once in a while: Christmas and Hanukah roughly coincide.

That means a lot of shoppers indulged their human nature to procrastinate and waited until the last minute to splurge, said Tim Phelan, spokesman for the Connecticut Retail Merchants Association.

“I’m hoping what’s been up and down will end with a strong flourish,” Phelan said.
Overall, the holiday shopping season has not sounded any alarm bells, positive or negative.
“I don’t see anything different than other years,” Phelan said. “Shoppers fly out of the gate on Black Friday, then there’s a lull, and they pick up at the end.”
At the B-Chic Shop downtown, owner Erica Malhotra was wondering where the rush was.
“I would say it hasn’t been as busy as last Christmas. I don’t know why, that’s what I’m wondering. Maybe people are doing more online shopping,” said Malhotra, who said her business for the season was off by 30% from the previous year.
She was hopeful for a last-minute sprint.
“Everyone is realizing the holiday is around the corner, and now that it got colder, people are getting more into the spirit and will be out shopping,” Malhotra said.
The lower temperatures that kicked in during the last couple of weeks before the holidays were a boon for the Outdoor Sports Center, on Route 7 near Norwalk.
The store sells winter wear, as well as winter sports equipment likes skis and snowboards.
“Our business is weather-dependent, so the light snow and colder temperatures have helped us compared with last year, when it was 70 degrees over the Christmas break,” said Scott Maxwell, the store’s manager.
“A huge part of our business is apparel and accessories, so if it’s not cold out you’re not going to buy a winter jacket,” Maxwell said. He could not put a number on the sales increase.
Business was reported up 5% over last year at the Open House Gift Shop downtown.
“It’s definitely being driven by novelty items that you can’t get at a department store,” said Karen Turner, manager and buyer for the store.
“Our top sellers are vests, sparkle ponchos, Christmas décor, and ornaments. I think what we offer is gift wrap for everything purchased in the store. So the fact we have unique gifts you can’t find in a big department store, and the array of merchandise we have in the store, is good for us. You can find a gift for everyone on your list, from things that are affordable all the way up to Waterford crystal.”
The Wilton Chamber of Commerce had no survey of merchants available to compare with previous years to show if the nationwide trend toward heavier online shopping is hurting the local stores.