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MEEKER I It was a good to average Christmas season for several of the retail merchants in Meeker, most of them buoyed by Small Business Saturday, when nearly all reported a great increase in the amount of local traffic.
“I think most of our local shoppers this season made a committed effort to shop locally when they could,” said Wendy Gutierrez, owner of Wendll’s Wondrous Things. “I believe the people are really starting to see the importance of investing in the community’s businesses; they are grateful for the businesses that are here and realize it takes a buy-in to keep those businesses here.”
“We were a little busier this year, but I suspect we did about the same amount of business as last year,” said Gary Dunham, owner of Meeker General Mercantile. “We had quite a few locals but also a good percentage of our business came from out of town.
“The locals who buy here year-round all bought here for the holidays,” he said. “That is a good thing because they are at least shopping here by choice instead of leaving town to buy everything.”
Chad Shepherd, owner of Shepherd’s Office Outfitters, said that while the dollars the electronics/office supply outlet brought in were slightly higher than in the past, “so was the inventory, so we had to make more sales to break even with last year.
“We were definitely hurt by a shopping season that was roughly eight days shorter than last year, and while it is good for the consumers, it is not good for the retail outlets that the gas prices are down,” he said. “It makes it easier for folks to leave town to do their shopping.
“Thanksgiving coming late hurt us, we saw absolutely no business on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving, but we had great local support on Small Business Saturday,” he said.
He also said he believes the opening of the new Family Dollar store on East Market Street “really hurt all businesses in town; people went in there because they were curious, and many of those folks did take advantage of the prices there.”
Although all the business owners said they really haven’t had the time to look closely at final figures to know how they did overall, Gary Stackner, owner of Samuelsons True Value Hardware and Lumber, said he felt the shopping this year was “disappointing.”
“While I would guess were about the same as last year overall, I would safely say that it was slower than usual in that we sold no lumber to speak of and the tool sales were not very good,” he said.
What did sell was equipment that could be used in various projects, “but nothing real major or any really large orders of supplies.”
“I am happy to say that the locals who support us all year long did stop in and buy various things,” he said. “We have a good local group of people who buy from us, and they were here this shopping season.”
Gutierrez said she believes this season signaled a small but positive turnaround in the local mindset that you have to leave town to buy anything.
She said Wendll’s top sales items this year were jewelry followed by clothing and holiday-related items.
“The dollars overall were about the same this year, but while I don’t think I hit my seasonal sales goal, I will be close,” Gutierrez said. “Small Business Saturday was a huge success for us; some locals even said they stopped in to buy something from us because of the Small Business Saturday promotion.
“I am optimistic on our part and on our customers’ part that things are starting to improve,” she said. “I truly believe many of the locals are beginning to feel a gratitude for the businesses that are here year-around. Owning a small business in a small town is not easy work, and I believe many of the locals are beginning to understand that.”
Gutierrez also said she believes that the opening of the dollar store will be a good thing overall for Meeker.
“If Family Dollar can keep the locals from going out of town for some things, then the overall town benefits from the sales taxes,” she said. “Then, if the locals slowly realize they don’t have to leave town to buy everything, then maybe they will have a change of mindset that has them at least checking out the locally sold products before automatically going out of town to buy everything.”
Gary Shepherd also pointed to heavy traffic at the Family Dollar as being a real factor in the local shopping season.
“Just by its timed opening, it affected all of the other retailers in Meeker,” Shepherd said. “We sold a lot of cables and electronic accessories, which no one else sells, and that kept us up slightly, I think, in sales but down in overall foot traffic.
“Everyone wanted to check out the Family Dollar, and they had a full parking lot up until Christmas,” he said. “That is bound to affect the bottom line of all the businesses that were here a year ago, but then again, it is another reason for the locals to stay here and keep more business here.”
The most popular items at Meeker General Mercantile, according to Dunham, were kids’ dinosaur and zombie items.
“We also sold a lot of clothing and winter boots,” Dunham said. “But the winter boots are always one of the biggest items we sell. Jackets are another strong seller.
“I think the season went well; it certainly could have been worse,” he said. “Overall, I can’t complain, and it was good to see as many locals in buying as we saw this year.”