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Retailers report mixed holiday sales

Whether it was because of the down economy, Hurricane Sandy or the shooting in Newtown, Conn., there is plenty of blame to go around for the sluggish retail sales this holiday season.

Retailers like Target Corp. and Macy’s Inc. reported flat growth, while Barnes & Noble Inc. saw a sales decrease. Many retailers only saw a 2.5 percent increase over last year.

The International Council of Shopping Centers reported an increase of 3 percent for November and December, but the number is expected to rise when post-holiday sales are factored in.

Many retailers noted heavy shopping the weekend of Black Friday and the weekend before Christmas, but soft sales the rest of December. A Thanksgiving that was earlier than usual led to less of a holiday urgency. RetailNext reported traffic from Thanksgiving to Dec. 23 was down 16.5 percent, with sales down 5.8 percent.

In Westchester, chambers of commerce reported their communities did well, while retailers reported sluggish sales.

“Things seemed to be bustling,” said Eli Gordon, president of the New Rochelle Chamber of Commerce.

While Gordon did not have any actual numbers, he said that in New Rochelle people were opening up their purses and that businesses saw traffic. A Thanksgiving parade and a holiday lighting ceremony also helped get people into the holiday spirit.

Mount Kisco retailers have been struggling since Borders, a major anchor store, closed in September 2011, with the vacant space not filled.

Leslie Bijoux and Eric Sussman run Yogi’s Paw, a boutique store with locations in Mount Kisco and Mamaroneck. The duo said that sales were slower than in previous years, and that they didn’t have big days on Black Friday or the weekend before Christmas.

“It was steady but there was a lack of enthusiasm,” Bijoux said. “I felt like people’s moods were a little down. After Hurricane Sandy hit the region, it changed people’s attitudes a bit.”

Bijoux said that Mount Kisco is suffering without an anchor store and that Borders gave people a reason to come to the town. She said that Mamaroneck is holding its own. Bijoux would like to see municipalities relax parking restrictions and keep towns looking good as a way to attract more foot traffic, but she said it’s up to businesses to generate customers.

“They have to get them and keep coming back with good merchandise and good prices,” Bijoux said. “That’s what we focus on. We get good new merchandise in our store at a price that people can afford them.”

Retailers in Mount Kisco said the holiday season was sluggish and flat versus last year.

“Hurricane Sandy and (the shooting in) Newtown took a lot out of the momentum of the holiday season,” said Cathy Deutsch, who runs Tiger Lily Boutique. “It was a very soft season in Mount Kisco.”

Deutsch said that events like Small Business Saturday did not help business, calling it a marketing campaign for American Express, which created the event.

Lori Land, who co-owns Churchills of Mount Kisco, an upscale clothing, shoes, jewelry and accessories store, also saw a slow holiday season until a last-minute rush helped boost sales.

“People were in a giving mood,” Land said. “Family members were looking for special gifts without any limits. We were extremely busy, busier than last year. We started off weak, but ended with a bang.”

Land said that the shooting in Newtown put people in a somber mood, hurting sales. She said that businesses in Mount Kisco need to collaborate more and that the town needs to do more to promote itself.

“We need more town events, more Mount Kisco night outs,” Land said. “Business owners need to work together to bring in traffic as a unit.”

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