Holiday sales vary for retailers

By most accounts from businesses
across the Cayman Islands, much of 2010, including the Christmas holiday
season, was not great in terms of revenue, and this year’s take was less than
that of 2009.

But some businesses say their income
was on par with that in 2009 – or even better.

At clothing retailer Arabus, owner
Edward Solomon said, “We’ve posted similar sales to last year, but just a
little down from that.”

He added that 2010 was not a banner
year for revenue, but from his observation of customers’ buying habits
throughout the Christmas season, despite the level of unemployment and the
worldwide recession, the economy was on an upswing.

“I was open on Tuesday, 28 December,
and sales were pretty good, too. We are also looking forward to finishing the week
strong and going into 2011 with positive vibrations,” said Mr. Solomon.

Jerry Kirkconnell of Kirk Freeport
stores, said “Things were a little flat. Same as last year. We experienced some
growth in November, but December was even to last year’s figures.”

He said business was really bad in
the summer, and October’s performance was horrible, adding, “It’s like a
seesaw. You have one good day and then one bad one.”

Mr. Kirkconnell said he believes the
Cayman Islands has about two tough years ahead. “With less cruise ships coming
this summer, we will just be watching to see if and where we need to make more

He pointed out that the Kirk group of
companies has already closed Far Away Places, Del Sol 1 and Waterford
Wedgewood. Kirk Freeport has also cut at least 10 jobs.

“We have to remain optimistic but be
realistic, and as a result, we are hoping for the best and preparing for the
worst,” he said.

Some retailers enjoyed an upsurge in
sales that went beyond their 2009 figures.

Berna Thompson Cummins of A.L.
Thompson’s said, “Sales have been good and we are grateful to the public for
their support. I think it’s actually better than last year.

The store is so diversified that when
we are lagging in one area, another area tends to balance that out.” She said
she was surprised at how well Christmas items sold, considering the economy.

“Building of residential homes is on
the rise again, and with new hotels being planned, I think things will
consistently get better,” she said.

A.L. Thompson’s will be adding a
garden centre by the end of next year, in addition to rolling out a new
distribution centre for appliances, she said.

Jacques Scott Wines and Spirits
reported similarly encouraging news regarding Christmas season sales.

Retail Division Manager Paul McLaughlin
said, “The first couple of weeks in December were sluggish and I think the
recession was a factor, but the last week and a half before Christmas turned
out, bringing us closer to last year’s figures. Folks definitely left it to the
last minute.”

Mr. McLaughlin said the key
contributing factor to last year’s strong season was the rush of people trying
to buy liquor before the duty increase introduced by the government.

“We are not breaking records, but it
was a good year and the Christmas quarter held its own,” he said.

Jacques Scott Wines and Spirits
opened a new store in the East End in October and is scheduled to open a store
late in the year in West Bay.

“The money we had to spend we have
spent wisely on marketing, and people know what to expect with Jacques Scott,”
he said.

Prentice Panton of Reflections said
their locations’ revenue over the holiday season was about the same as in 2009.

“We were down on our liquor sales.
Clothing sales were up and food was about even, so everything kind of evened
out to bring us in the region of where we were last year,” he said.

Mr. Panton said the stores added
fireworks, small appliances and video games to its’ shelves this year, and
everything came together to make the difference in the bottom line. He pointed
out that the day after Thanksgiving was the best one-day sale of the year.

“People started shopping earlier and
some things actually ran out of stock, so we could have sold more, but we did
not anticipate the kind of demand we had,” he said.

This year, Mr. Panton said,
Reflections will seek to open more liquor stores, as well as add new clothing
and electronic lines.