Many Red Deer retailers are counting on last-minute gift shoppers to bolster sales after a slow start to the Christmas shopping season.
Traffic through some stores started picking up this week, according to merchants who hope this last weekend before Christmas will be their busiest yet.
“It’s starting to pick up, but it’s not as good as it should be,” said the manager of the Ardene store at Bower Place Mall, who summed up the general sentiment in this lacklustre Alberta economy.
Many stores are already offering customers Boxing Day-style discounts.
“It’s not all doom and gloom, people are still shopping, but in my personal opinion, it’s slower than last year,” said Bret Nederlof, whose family owns Clowes Jewelers. His store was bustling because of a close-out sale (Clowes is at the end of its lease and considering a move to another location). Other mall outlets were also starting to get busier on Friday.
Phil Lapierre noticed traffic congestion in South Red Deer when he went out Christmas shopping. It’s dawning on people that there are only three days left, he added, with a chuckle.
Central Alberta artist Lorene Runham was happy with recent turnout in a local market area set up in the former Sears space. “It’s been very busy yesterday and today,” added Susan Rombs of Innisfail, from the nearby booth, The Gift Loft.
But while “Black Friday was crazy,” Rombs believes many area residents have likely cut back on their Christmas budgets, with less work in the oilfield.
Reay-anne Slayter, of Sylvan Lake, said her spending is actually up this year — by necessity. She now has a third child to buy for.
But long-haul truck driver Peary Thompson is carefully budgeting because he’s been off with a disability. “I’ve heard of a lot of people getting laid off and it’s not as easy finding a job…”
And Red Deer mother Dallas Lapointe has been scanning fliers for toy sales. “I can tell there’s not an excess of money in Red Deer,” she said, but Christmas is coming, regardless.
Deb Brodersen, manager of The Bear House in Parkland Mall, said she saw a flurry of early shoppers in who wanted to send off parcels before Canada Post took job action.
Local artisans at the Tinker’s Nook at Parkland Mall also saw more customers than last Christmas — perhaps because more people are now aware they are there, said the space’s creator, Judy Balderson.
But Harry Gopal, owner of TGT Goldsmiths, said “It’s not as good as it should be for this time of year…. people are watching their pennies.” And Mindy Mand, owner of The Shoe Chalet, is hoping for a last-minute surge of shoppers to make up for a slow Christmas season.
Amanda Gould, executive-director of Red Deer Downtown Business Association, said it’s been a quieter Christmas, because of the economy, but downtown retailers are remaining positive and hoping their unique products will bring more shoppers in this weekend.