CADILLAC — Downtown business owners were hopeful to catch the rush of last-minute holiday shoppers, but the blizzard-like conditions seen over the weekend caused sales to suffer.
In the days leading up to Christmas, shop owners usually expect a decent amount of foot traffic from those in need of gift certificates, stocking stuffers or white elephant presents. But the high winds, accumulating snow and icy roads kept customers indoors.
The Sweet Shop Owner Janeen Russell said customers fled to the store on Thursday, knowing that the storm would hit that evening, but sales fell off Friday into Saturday.
Historically, Russell has kept the store open on Christmas Eve in anticipation of customers who want to bring local treats to their family gatherings, and had prepared for similar circumstances this year, only to be met with one of her slowest days of the season. Sales made Thursday were “a nice shot in the arm,” but they don’t cover the revenue that could have been generated in better weather conditions.
“It’s really, really difficult to make up for those losses when there’s a snowstorm, and people need to have their gifts bought by a certain day,” she said. “Definitely, there is a loss there.”
Russell’s suspicion is that the few shoppers who were brave enough to go out during the storm targeted big box retailers, where they could tackle grocery and gift lists at the same time.
Now that the storm has passed, Wargames North Owner Jeff Miller is looking forward to the post-holiday rush, after pushing through the weather-induced slowdown.
Much of Miller’s clientele are interested in collectibles or niche items. Unless his customers’ loved ones know exactly what they’re looking for, they’ve most likely gone the gift certificate route, and they’re already being cashed in.
“Everybody who just got forced to sit inside for three days can be able to come out and move around,” he said. “I’ve already seen more people today than I do on a typical Monday.”
Although in-person sales took a hit during what would have been a successful end-of-season spree, Miller’s online sales were able to pick up the slack, so the shop wasn’t heavily impacted.
Holiday-weekend shopping was busier than Horizon Books Store Manager Tereesa Arn was expecting, but still much slower than what she’s used to this time of year. Arn said Wednesday was Horizon’s most successful day, and it fared well Thursday, too, but like her downtown neighbors, she heard crickets Friday and Saturday.
“We typically have strong sales right up to the very end,” she said. “And we just didn’t have it this year.”
Horizon remained open on Christmas Eve, but Arn said it didn’t make a difference. The weather either limited customers’ stops, or kept them away altogether.
Arn was optimistic that post-holiday shopping could fill in the revenue gaps left by the weekend. But based on Monday’s traffic, she said that’s not likely to happen.
Charming North Owner Ashley Clark was disappointed by the lack of shoppers through the end of holiday season, but it wasn’t all bad.
She said customers who were out and about during the storm came to downtown with the intention of buying gifts, so there was still money to be spent. Even so, Clark said the week before Christmas is generally her most active, and the lack of traffic in the shop was noticeable.
“We maybe didn’t take too big of a hit,” she said. “But I think it might not have been as much as it could have been had the weather not been so bad.”
While major retailers can survive with constant shoppers, Clark said Cadillac’s small businesses often rely on holiday shopping to carry stores during the off season. She’s already braced herself for the dip in downtown visitation that occurs from January until spring, but she’s keeping her fingers crossed that all the gift certificates she sold over the last few months come back in the coming weeks.