Businesses hope for Sale-ebration

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 29, 2005

As the busiest shopping days of the year begin, it is nice to know that, for the most part, Ironton businesses are not left out in the cold.

Cash registers are singing all across the Tri-State, but much of the foot traffic will be directed to area malls and chain stores. Even though these chains have hurt business, Tom Allyn, owner of Allyn's Jewelers, said that the holidays still put some presents in his stocking, so to speak.

&#8220If it wasn't for the Christmas season, I don't think we'd be able to survive,” Allyn said. &#8220Because we do, probably, 45 percent of our business in November and December, so it's extremely important to the jewelry business. That's not unique to us, in the jewelry business, that's how important Christmas is.”

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Allyn said that his sales this year have also been helped by demand for the &#8220O” necklace, a circle of diamonds popularized by Oprah. Allyn said he tries to set his apart with an additional diamond in the center of the necklace.

A popular gift for men has been mechanical watches, especially with leather straps, which have come back in to fashion.

&#8220The more complicated the better for the people that are into these,” Allyn said. &#8220These are not cheap watches, they're expensive watches, but they're really good numbers this type of year.”

Allyn realizes that his holiday season would be even brighter with some additional small businesses downtown, but said that, even with the holiday season, they can have a rough time.

&#8220Overall, its tough. It's very difficult for a small, independent retailer to make it in today's environment,” Allyn said.

Even though Ironton's downtown may not be the holiday hot spot it once was, you wouldn't know it to look at Allyn's shop.

&#8220I tell you, if you came down here and stood still for a minute, they'd have lights on you,” Allyn said. &#8220We've got more Christmas decorations than you can imagine. The whole store is decorated, lights all around the windows, Santa Claus and reindeer on the roof and a star. We really get into the decorating.”

Whether it's that Santa on the roof, or the fun of picking out presents, Allyn said that the best part of the season for him is the cheerfulness of his customers.

&#8220People are in a pretty good mood when they're shopping this time of year,” Allyn said. &#8220That's the nice thing about our business, our customers. Most of them are just a joy to be around Š some of them are crabby. But most of them, especially this time of year are real nice.”

Iron City blues

A few blocks away, the holiday season is giving a boost to Jim Hacker's Iron City Hardware Š but it pales in comparison to the past.

&#8220It helps,” Hacker said. &#8220Twenty years ago it was a whole lot better, probably one third of our year was December. It's probably our best month still, it's not like it was, but it's still our best month.”

Hacker still does a sizable bit of holiday business, especially furniture, but he says even those sales have taken a hit in past years from the &#8220big box” stores - retailers like Wal-Mart and Target.

That hasn't stopped Hacker from putting up decorations, having a few Christmas sales, and letting employees get into the spirit.

&#8220(Iron City employee) Kenny dresses up like Kenny Claus, he's our main dog here,” Hacker said with a laugh. &#8220He puts on a Santa Claus hat and sings to everybody. So we try to have fun with it.”

Even though a hardware store may not be everyone's first thought for gift giving, Hacker said business does pick up.

&#8220This time of year for us too is good because, like now it's snowing we'll start selling salt and shovels and sleds, so we pick up on that too. We sell heaters and insulation as far as the winter months themselves as well.”

Tis' season for feet

&#8220We're more busy in December than in any other month, and of course that's because of Christmas sales,” Joe Unger, owner of Unger's Shoes said.

Although Unger always has a green holiday season, predicting his business beyond that gets a little trickier.

&#8220To the contrary, they always say the busiest retail shopping day of the year is the day after Thanksgiving, but that's not always necessarily true,” Unger said. &#8220Sometimes, for example, we've been most busy on, say the 22nd of December, maybe, a couple days before Christmas.”

In some years, Unger said, his busiest day is actually the day after Christmas, when all of his customers are flush with Christmas money, gift certificates or even products to return or exchange.

Unger said that his holiday rush has actually been increasing in the past few years, at least in terms of traffic.

&#8220I would say that the foot traffic downtown has improved over the past years for several reasons,” Unger said. &#8220One of those things is that the Park Avenue Apartments and the Sherman-Thompson Towers added a lot of downtown residents. So we have two huge complexes that are in our backyard, literally, and that has helped downtown traffic considerably.”

Things are getting better, but Unger said that downtown still has plenty of room to grow, a process that he said should begin right here at home.

&#8220The people that live in Ironton need to recognize that there's a lot of quality merchandise and merchants in their downtown,” Unger said. &#8220It's a self-fulfilling prophecy when people say there's nothing downtown. Unless they shop downtown, then nothing truly will be down there.

&#8220If people would just remember that we have a jewelry store, we have a cosmetic store, hardware stores, dollar stores, we have restaurants downtown. They have to make the effort to drive into downtown, but I think if people would think locally and shop locally, then we all win.”

For his part, Unger is stocking up some of his most popular gift items and lavishing his store with tons of decorations. But he said that more than a cash-filled holiday, he's looking forward to the spirit of giving, that spirit of cheerfulness, love and wonder worth more, in his view, than any gift.

&#8220I enjoy it, but not because of increased sales, that's not it at all,” Unger said.

&#8220I enjoy it because there is the anticipation that goes with the advent season. And that is why I enjoy it. Secondary to that is the beauty of the season, the decorations, the fire in the fireplace type thing. But that's more the physical beauty than the spiritual. Primarily it's because it's the advent season.”