Holiday sales up for local merchants

ESCANABA – The Christmas season is often said to be the most wonderful time of the year; for retailers this also rings true as many local big-box stores and small businesses have noticed an uptick in sales this holiday season.

“We’ve actually been pretty busy,” said Scott Bjorne, front-end manager of the Escanaba Menards.

Bjorne noted what has been especially exciting this year is the store raised $5,554.12 and sold 926 toys for the local Marine Corps League’s Toys for Tots program, which started in mid-November.

Bjorne said though the few days before Christmas tend to slow down a bit for business, Menards has done well with its holiday sales.

“Our numbers are a little bit better; not dramatically better, but they’re definitely up from last year,” he said, attributing the increase to a better economy.

According to Escanaba Shopko store manager Dan Branam, business was extremely busy in the days leading up to the holidays. But this year, sales picked up earlier than normal due to the early cold weather – which helped sell jackets, hats, snow shovels, scrapers, sleds and toboggans.

“I also think the way the weather has been, as far as the snow, is keeping more business in town,” he said. “I think there’s less people traveling to Green Bay and Appleton.”

Escanaba Kmart store manager Theresa Prosen agrees business has gone well, noting this year has been a great layaway season. Though the store’s busiest time of the year is right after Thanksgiving, she said Kmart has been steady with customers; she saw many last-minute shoppers in the final days leading up to Christmas.

But it wasn’t just big businesses that fared well.

“It’s been very, very busy – probably just as good as any year we’ve had so far,” said Sayklly’s Confectionery & Gifts owner Jim Kirby, who noted the busiest day of the year for the store is two days before Christmas.

And Peggy O’Connell, president of the Escanaba Downtown Partners in Business and owner of Positively! The Center for Success, said sales at the store – now in its third year – are up considerably from last year.

“We brought in a couple of things that are different and unique and you can’t get at the big box stores,” she said.

O’Connell feels both increased advertising and a better economy helped Positively! this holiday season.

She added she is grateful to those who did their shopping locally since the biggest competition for local retailers is down in the Green Bay and Appleton area, as well as Marquette.

“I’m very grateful for all the people who did do their shopping locally this year,” she said. “I appreciate their business and it gives us the opportunity to support their organizations and local events.”

On a national scale, the National Retail Federation projected sales in November and December to increase 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion – more than 2012’s actual 3.5 percent holiday season sales growth, according to

The forecast is higher than the 10-year average holiday sales growth of 3.3 percent.

The NRF says the holiday season can account for anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of a retailer’s annual sales and for approximately 20 percent of total industry annual sales.