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Christmas retail sales across the country showed a modest increase from 2008 to 2009. Shelby County stores, however, reported mixed results.
Main Street Music & More owner Mary Wiecek said beginning guitars sold well, but overall sales were still down from last year. This was not good considering how much the store relies on holiday shoppers.
"It's a big percentage of our year," Wiecek said. "We have cut back on some inventory."
She said the store will continue to ride out these tough economic times, but added that they are doing well with music lessons.
"Our lessons - we're booked," Wiecek said. "But as far as purchasing new things, they've cut back. People don't seem to be upgrading."
Shelby Horse Supply owner Vance Riester saw a similar trend.
"I don't think we sold quite as much horse equipment as we did in the past," he said. "I think maybe people are squeezing a little more life out of old equipment."
But gifts like belts and key tags, as well as embroidered goods like sweatshirts and caps sold well, Riester added. Holiday sales are only 1/25th of his yearly sales figures, so Riester said he has no plans to buy less of the unique horse merchandise sold at Shelby Horse Supply.
Horse-lovers also turned out strong at Metzger's Country Store for painted ponies. Surprisingly, said owner Charlie Metzger, figurines of dogs and chickens were a popular item.
"Horses, you expect, but there's a sub-culture of chicken lovers out there," he said.
Metzger said holiday sales were better this year than last year, although he doubted if it was as good as two years ago, before the recession.
Metzger and other shop owners agreed there seems to be a feeling among customers that the economy is improving. Things like stabilized gas prices, an increase in the stock market or just a hopeful, positive outlook seemed evident among patrons.
Pat Burnett, owner of Wakefield-Scearce Galleries, was pleased with their sales.
"It was uncertain going in," Burnett said. "We had very good sales, very good crowds. We're cautiously optimistic about 2010."
He said across the board, from the gallery's classic English antiques to nativity scenes and hand-blown, hand-painted ornaments, sales were good, and he believes people are more confident about the economy.
Joan White, owner of the Keepsake Shop, agreed.
"I feel like overall they feel like things are going to get better."
Like Wakefield-Scearce, White's Christmas decorations sold well.
"It seemed like everybody was looking for red taper candles. I ran out," she said.
White was expecting a slow season, and although her sales were similar to last year, she was pleasantly surprised by the traffic. Her regular patrons showed up in droves, as many of them have since the shop opened 25 years ago.
But newness had its place, too.
Although Weeds and Things owners Chris Pennington and Rob Canina were nervous going into the holiday season, the new shop on Main Street was very popular.
"We had to place emergency orders in November," Canina said. "Our sales have way exceeded our expectations."
The store sold out of polka-dotted monogram products and children's monkeys. Other popular items included Vera Bradley merchandise and several lines of jewelry.
In fact, this year went so well that Canina and Pennington are already planning next Christmas. From their catchy-window displays to the very items they'll predict to be big sellers, the owners are excited and optimistic for Christmas 2010.
"We kind of pride ourselves on having something unique for the person who has everything," Canina said.