Holiday shopping brisk

Cayman Islands retailers are reporting strong holiday sales to residents in spite of the damage to the economy cause by Hurricane Ivan.

Gerry Kirkconnell, managing director of Kirk Freeport, indicated local sales have been strong.

‘So far, we have been very pleased,’ he said, noting that the company normally does significant business for the Christmas season.

Some of the items selling well at the various Kirk Freeport stores include fragrances, cosmetics, watches and other jewellery.

‘We have some gift sets of china and crystal that are selling well, too,’ Mr. Kirkconnell said.

Mary Adam of Hobbies and Books also said sales were going very well at the company’s three stores, which also include Books by the Bay and Discovery Toys at the Shoppes at Grand Harbour.

Selling well at the Hobbies and Books stores are the electronic learning toys and computers. The Leapster game is a particularly hot item. ‘We’ve had two shipments already and as soon as we get them in, they sell,’ Mrs. Adam said.

Though some places have run out of Christmas trees, Hobbies and Books still has a few left. ‘We ordered a few less trees this year because we thought the market was going to be a little smaller,’ she said, noting that many residents appear to be going off the island this Christmas. ‘The people that have stayed here bought trees, though.’

Mrs. Adam thinks there is one particular reason for strong holiday sales despite the difficult post-Ivan economy.

‘Many people in Cayman, myself included, have made a decision to shop locally to support the local merchants,’ she said. ‘Even things that I normally would have bought off-island, I am buying here.’

Dennis Mastry, director of retail at Divers Supply and Sports Supply, has noticed a big difference in holiday sales between the two West Bay Road stores.

At the West Shore Centre’s Divers Supply, where between 70 per cent and 90 per cent of sales are to tourists, holiday sales are expected to be off significantly.

But at the Galleria’s Sports Supply, where nearly all of the sales are to residents, the prospects look much brighter. ‘We think Sports Supply will do as well, or even better, than usual this year,’ Mr. Mastry said, adding that sales have been ‘really brisk’ since the store reopened post-Ivan just last Thursday.

Although a large amount of Sports Supply’s inventory is sitting in a container at the Port of Miami, unable to get here until after Christmas, Mr. Mastry says there are plenty of other items in stock, notably a whole line of Adidas products – which is new for the store – and balls for nearly every sport.

Sports Supply, like many businesses, is having difficulty getting products to the island because of the current shipping problems caused by the Hurricane Ivan recovery. As a result, Mr. Mastry thinks gift certificate sales are going to be higher this year.

Pure Art has also seen a rise in sales for Christmas, said owner Debbie Van der Bol. ‘A lot of people are travelling off-island and are buying things for people they will be visiting.’

Mrs. Van der Bol admits being concerned about post-holiday sales, especially since residents do not seem to be buying much artwork for themselves, partially because many people are not back into their homes yet.

Even with strong sales so far, Gerry Kirkconnell knows the season could easily take a turn for the worse. ‘The next few days are so important,’ he said on Monday. ‘Everything depends on how it goes right up until Christmas.’

With so much importance on the last few shopping days before Christmas, most retailers are staying open later to allow more time for last minute shopping.

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