Merchants say holiday sales brisk
THE “SHOP SONOMA” campaign for the weekend after Thanksgiving, was an apparent success.
The cash registers have been jingling on the Plaza and around Sonoma this holiday season.
“Shop Sonoma,” the local shopping initiative focused on the weekend after Thanksgiving, “was very successful,” according to Laurie Decker, economic development project manager, though the information she has at this point is anecdotal. The numbers are about four months behind, she said.
“People see the connection between shopping local and the health of the local economy,” Decker said. Though the Economic Development Partnership has not been involved with them in any way, Decker had praise for the resident-run cash mobs hitting the Plaza in recent weeks to spend a set amount at one store at a pre-appointed time. She points out these are not sustainable economic stimulus models, but said, “It’s a great way to bring attention to shopping local.”
A mob of local buyers braved the chill and wind Saturday, assembling in the community center parking lot before they headed en mass to Readers’ Books, cash in hand. Event organizer Janice King estimated that about 50 people joined the merry crowd and though she wasn’t certain how much they spent, she said, “Andy (Weinberger) at Readers’ was very happy.”
In addition to the presumed success of the shop local initiatives, Decker said businesses have seen many visiting shoppers on the weekends during the holiday shopping period. James Hahn, owner of Sunflower Caffé, said he’s noticed an 8 percent to 10 percent increase in foot traffic on the weekends.
“The recession hit us like everyone else in 2008 and 2009. We came roaring back with double-digit percentage increases the past two years,” said Brian Smucker, co-owner of Baksheesh. “2011 was our best year in our 15-year history. So if we end this year even with last year, we won’t be complaining.”
For the year, he says, sales at his Plaza-frontage shop are up slightly. Baksheesh also has a store in St. Helena where sales have been down slightly.
Further afield, outside the bubble of the Plaza where not as many visitors may be walking by, Rob Wilson, owner of Sonoma Old School on Broadway, said he’s “definitely seen an increase in sales over last year.” SOS maintains a robust Facebook presence with nearly 2,000 followers, to which Wilson attributes some of his success in getting the word out about products and sales locally.
Wilson said he’s heard more people in the area saying they are trying to do all of their gift-shopping locally. It’s taken some time, but he said that people are realizing that SOS, in its seventh year on Broadway, sells more than skateboards and is also a clothing and shoe shop. In fact, he estimates that 85 percent of his inventory is clothing, shoes and sunglasses. “People can save themselves a 30-minute drive,” he said.
Thursday is the final night of the inaugural season of late night shopping at Cornerstone Sonoma. Desiree Stinson of Artefact Design and Salvage, who managed the four-week series, said she hopes the late night series – along with the component in which shoppers vote to award the use of Cornerstone’s event space to a nonprofit or school – will become annual traditions. “This is the beginning of a process,” she said, “We want to find ways (to offer holiday shopping experiences) that make sense for the community.”
In addition to offering readings, concerts, tastings and talks, the extended hours (some merchants have been staying open until 8 p.m.) were a little more convenient for some shoppers. “We’re very happy with the turnout,” said Stinson.
This Thursday, singer-songwriters Sean Carscadden and Marty O’Reilly will perform and celebrate the release of their debut album “Broke the Moon.” Wildcat conservationist Zara McDonald, of Felidae Conservation Fund, will give a presentation at Artefact about mountain lions and the work underway to protect them. Artefact is also selling a bronze-cast mountain lion skull and donating $100 for each one sold throughout the holiday shopping season to Felidae.