Calgary retailers are betting on a great holiday shopping season

“That push over the last few years to buy local really saved us all and we just need that again this year because I think a lot of them are in a crisis.”

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After two and a half years of pandemic and restrictions, Calgary retailers welcome a return to normalcy as local shoppers prepare for Santa to come down the chimney.

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The question for store owners is how joyful the season will be.

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Lindsay Saunders, the owner of Cinder and Sage, said she has seen sales drop this year, including 25 per cent in November, compared to 2020 and 2021 when there was a hyper-local focus among shoppers.

“That push over the last couple of years to buy local really saved us all and we just need that again this year because I think a lot of them are in crisis,” he said.

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Cinder and Sage sells Saunders’ line of jewelry, as well as many other items that come primarily from Alberta.

The store actually spent the first few years of its existence as an e-commerce business only, but it finally opened a physical location about five years ago. This foundation prepared them well for the pandemic, as retailers faced closures and restrictions on face-to-face sales. While many were forced to switch, in some cases they were helping other stores catch up online.

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They also face economic forces that make some buyers more cautious in their spending.

Deloitte’s Christmas retail outlook for 2022 said a looming recession fueled by high inflation and rising interest rates is a concern for many Canadians. Marty Weintraub, its national retail leader, said from his conversations with retailers that there is caution and concern about the holiday season tied to Canadians’ willingness to spend.

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“It’s not necessarily that the money isn’t there, it’s the propensity to let it go,” he said. “I still think we’re going to have a tougher holiday season, because bank messaging has actually only gotten a little bit worse since we did our research in September.”

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He added that the expansion and emphasis on Black Friday sales also continues to take some of the shine off Boxing Day sales, with only a third of Canadians planning to shop after Christmas this year. He said that percentage drops by about one or two percent each year.

FILE PHOTO: Customers brave the elements as they arrive at the Market Mall in Calgary on Sunday, December 26, 2021.
FILE PHOTO: Customers brave the elements as they arrive at the Market Mall in Calgary on Sunday, December 26, 2021. Jim Wells/Postmedia

While supply chain issues have been a challenge across all sectors, in retail, Weintraub said, it’s starting to get back on track. In some cases, there are issues where companies oversupply due to unreliable supply chains. Where there are difficulties in obtaining certain items, particularly electronics, they are offset by the availability of choice, as long as people are willing to look at other brands.

The holidays are the time to shine for toy stores and is where they can often make or break the year. Discovery Hut was forced to take some big steps to stay operational during COVID, including opening a store at CrossIron Mills so it could serve people who would otherwise be cut off due to capacity restrictions. The second location has been so successful that it is not going anywhere.

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The most important thing for co-owner Randy Shapiro is to get back to normal buying patterns.

“It really is crucial for us,” he said. “We offer in-store entertainment and the majority of our customers are people who shop in-store. So when we have capacity constraints or have to rely on internet sales, it really means a lean year for us. And that’s putting it mildly.”

According to manager James Brewer, one of the big trends is selling board games because of the social aspect of people being able to get together more this Christmas.

FILE PHOTO: Randy Shapiro, co-owner of the Discovery Hut at the CF Chinook Center on Monday, Nov. 16, 2020.
FILE PHOTO: Randy Shapiro, co-owner of the Discovery Hut at the CF Chinook Center on Monday, Nov. 16, 2020. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

The Sentry Box, which has been selling board games and miniatures in Calgary for 49 years and is one of the largest board game stores in Canada, is posting record sales this month, without any Black Friday promotions.

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Owner Gordon Johansen said sales were up about 15 percent from their best previous November. He wasn’t ready to give credit to his social nature, as many families have been inclined to sit around the table and start a game during the pandemic. He discusses its affordability during these tight budget times.

“Hobby shops and bars always do well in any type of economic slowdown,” Johansen said. “You might not go out and buy a new computer or a new car or a fancy TV or whatever, but you can pay $50 to $80 and get a game that will keep five people, six people entertained multiple times, it’s still a good game. offer. Games are cheap compared to most other things.

Johansen said that online sales represent a very small portion of their sales, since they have more than 7,000 titles available and it’s much easier to enter and navigate.

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The Retail Council of Canada published its Christmas outlook a couple of weeks ago. It showed that spending is expected to decline slightly this year, with Albertans planning to spend around $856 this season, a drop from $869 last year.

Michelle Wasylyshen, national spokeswoman for RCC, said 35 percent of people planned to start shopping in November, 28 percent planned to hit stores on Black Friday and 21 percent were looking online for deals on Cyber ​​Monday. .

She said there’s reason to be optimistic about people planning to spend more on food, drink and clothing.

“That’s indicative of more parties, more opportunities to look good, more face-to-face meetings, more family gatherings, that kind of thing,” he said. “We know that consumers are going to be careful with their money, they are going to stretch their dollar as far as they can go, but they want to buy, they want to celebrate.”

[email protected]

Twitter: @JoshAldrich03

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