Mixed Christmas sales reported

Reports from retailers on Christmas sales ranged from ‘soft’ to ‘phenomenal’, but most merchants are saying the Christmas sales season was just normal.

The Caymanian Compass surveyed some of the merchants who cater to Grand Cayman residents to find out how they did for the holidays.

One business that had a banner year was the Arabus Boutique on Fort Street.

‘We had a great, great Christmas season,’ said owner Edward Solomon. ‘It was the best one I had in a long time. It was phenomenal.’

Although it is in central George Town, Arabus mostly sells to island residents. Mr. Solomon said he has a following of established customers, but that he saw a lot of new customers as well. He’s not sure, however, why he had such a good Christmas season.

‘Merchandise was a factor, I think,’ he surmised. ‘I had a good variety, at a good price point.’

Another retailer who did better than expected was Stanley Panton, who owns the Reflections Mega-Store, the Food 4 Less stores and the Liquor 4 Less store.

‘Overall, throughout all the stores, we did better than expected,’ he said. ‘We projected sales at 15 to 20 per cent above last year, and all indications are that we hit that target.’

In particular, the sales at Liquor 4 Less were much higher than expected, Mr. Panton said.

Although there is more competition in the retail market, Mr. Panton said his stores increased customers over the year, something he attributes to the growing population.

Besides wine, champagne and spirits, other hot items for the holiday season were electronics, gaming systems, toys and Christmas decorations.

‘We ordered shipments of toys and decorations three times,’ Mr. Panton said. ‘Normally we do one order and that’s it.’

Mr. Panton said the Reflections group of companies was expecting one more ‘bump’ in sales for New Year’s and that he would follow up the holidays with heavy promotions for January.

A business that did about the same in holiday sales as last year was Brand Source/Home and Office City.

General Manager Theresa Leacock-Broderick said the company fared well.

‘We’re pretty much on par with last year,’ she said. ‘There wasn’t a whole lot of growth.’

The type of products sold this year did change from last year, however.

‘The number of [sales] was less, but the sales figures were on par,’ she said, noting that the business sold more big-ticket items like flat-screen televisions and appliances this year.

‘There was big excitement in the TV market,’ she said, attributing that to the reductions in price. Other lifestyle items that used to be priced higher also fell in price and sold better, Mrs. Leacock-Broderick said.

‘Things like wine coolers are affordable now,’ she said. ‘They’re not just for the rich and famous anymore.’

The opening of Cost-U-Less, the warehouse-style store at Governors Square, earlier this month probably affected the sales at Home and Office City, even though the products are different, Mrs. Leacock-Broderick said.

Cost-U-Less, which has 11 other stores in the Atlantic, Pacific and U.S., reported a company record in sales in its first week of business.

‘People probably got so excited with the good prices that they bought things they really weren’t looking for,’ she said, adding that those purchases left people less money for purchases elsewhere.

Jacques Scott also reported business as usual, said Retail Operations Manager Paul McLaughlin.

‘After a bit of a slow start, people were spending,’ he said. ‘We held our own.’

Mr. McLaughlin said the company’s new retail outlet in Savannah helped total sales. In addition, many people from overseas ordered gifts off the company’s website for residents of Grand Cayman, he said.

Despite the opening of Cost-U-Less, which is a direct warehouse store competitor, Priced Right, did well, said Managing Director Woody Foster.

‘Things were OK,’ he said. ‘As far as Christmas goes, we were pretty happy.’

A couple of stores reported holiday sales lower than last year.

Lloyd Ramsaran of Creative Tech, which sells high-end electronics, said he said he saw fewer customers walk through the doors this holiday season.

‘It seemed like a lot a people were off island,’ he said.

‘Sales were OK, but it wasn’t as busy as usual.’

Another merchant who saw a drop off in holiday business was Sounds and Things’ William Peguero, who said the holiday sales season was ‘very soft’.

‘We sold a lot of small items, but we kept hearing from a lot of people that things are tight.’

Mr. Peguero said his market demographic has changed somewhat. However, Sounds and Things’ market tends to be lower income earners.

Other than electronics, Mr. Peguero said low-end toys sold well.

‘We also did extremely well on motorbikes and things like that, with the cost of fuel and all.’

Despite the weaker sales, Mr. Peguero said he was thankful for the season.

‘We take everything as it comes,’ he said. ‘We just have to make changes to meet the market.’