With home buying and home construction high, unemployment low and consumer confidence strong, metro Jackson merchants reported a robust holiday selling season, with an average increase of 10% to 12% over last year’s successful season.
Sales at Northpark Mall “surpassed our expectations, which were quite high,” said Daniel Upton, mall manager. “The last week of December was also very good, with after Christmas sales and people cashing in mall gift certificates.”
The week before Christmas, gift certificate sales were up a whopping 45% over the same time period in 1998, he said.
“When the final numbers come in, I think we’ll see a double-digit increase across the board over last year,” he said. “And we did very well last year.”
The addition of Restoration Hardware, which replaced Warner Brothers, seemed to please consumers, Upton said.
“In the spring and summer, there will be some shifts as existing tenants consider possible relocation and expansion as we make room for bringing new merchants into the mall,” he said. “Right now, we’re 95% leased and we’re getting very close to being 100% leased.”
Ashley Mitias, general manager of PC Warehouse in Jackson, calculated a 15% to 20% increase in units sold over the holidays, she said.
“We’ve done an enormous amount of business where people with existing machines wanted upgrades,” she said. “We saw a lot of Internet giving — that is, boosting computer speed up to handle Internet. People who have had a computer in their home for a couple of years added a modem for Internet access or more RAM. We also saw increased sales in filtered Internet service and Internet Nanny software.”
Since Cheryl Patton opened Pearl River Trading Company in Jackson three months ago, she’s imported five 40-foot containers from China, Thailand and Indonesia, with each container transporting up to 40 pieces of large furniture and an assortment of decorator pieces.
“In fact, we are very much on target for our first three months of opening,” Patton said. “Next year, my partner in San Antonio and I have decided to split shipments so I will have more diverse items.”
Lance Townsend of Townsend’s Jewelers in Jackson said business increased 20% over the previous year, with engagement rings, gold chains and other gold items selling briskly.
“My guess is that a lot of young men were proposing in time for Christmas or New Year’s 2000,” Townsend said, with a chuckle.
Steve Scott, owner of Great Scott, and his wife, Amy Scott, owner of Lady Scott, had a “fabulous season,” he said.
“We sold a lot of cashmere sport coats and cashmere sweaters, Italian knit wear in polo collars and mocks, sweater vests and sports shirts,” Scott said. “Plus, Amy’s side sold a lot of sweaters and leather coats. We always sell a lot of gift certificates so we’re very busy after Christmas, too.”
Women usually account for only 15% of the customers that slip into Habana Smoke Shop in Jackson, but the week before Christmas, about half of the shoppers were women who purchased last minute Christmas cigars and accessories.
“Our second busiest day ever for cigar sales was on Saturday, Dec. 11,” said Chuck Bailey, retail account manager. “We’ve been very pleased.”
Even homebuyers were eager to spend money during the holidays. Lisa Harvey White, Realtor for Cress Realty Group in Ridgeland, said the weekend before Christmas, typically a slow time in the real estate business, was one of the busiest of the year for homebuyers in the $200,000-and-up range.
“We were pleasantly surprised that so many people were looking for houses just before Christmas,” Harvey said. “Traffic and sales have been brisk.”
Steve Wilbanks of New Orleans Caf