Merchants report season
by Kelly Feser Eells
Rumors of any economic slump have been, if not greatly, then
somewhat exaggerated. At least as far as local retailers are
"Business is certainly better than last year's was"
at this time, said Hildegard Tallent, owner of downtown's Kava
Gifts. "But everything was quieter downtown last year, though
mostly due to Sept. 11."
The consensus among several Arcade merchants is "optimistically
guarded," what Tallent cheerfully calls "happy talk."
It is, she indicates, a perspective as unique to Ojai's business
community as are the wares offered holiday shoppers.
"While, overall I'm (Kava Gifts) up," said Tallent,
"there aren't anywhere near the hordes of people you used
to see at this time of year. Especially today, Dec. 21, which,"
per both Tallent and the Better Business Bureau of America, is
generally the biggest holiday shopping day of the year. "It's
the day retailers come out of the red and into the black."
Still, "the locals are definitely doing their bit. There
aren't the manic crowds one normally sees," she chuckles,
"but then, Ojai merchants, historically, are always stronger
in the summer" - tourist season.
Another reason the "manic crowds" aren't as visible
as in previous years is that "all the big department stores
are offering these very compelling sales, with monumental discounts.
A lot of moms are telling me that, well, it's just easier to
shop for the things kids want" out of town.
The gift of music, however, spans all ages. Sal Lucido of Blue
Sky Music notes that, "Sales are down everywhere. Sears,
Wal-Mart; it's the economy, and what we're seeing in Ojai is
on par with what we're seeing across the nation."
Lucido adds that, "Even so, we're very close to what we
did (sales-wise) last year; probably within 1 percentage point
or two. Not great, but, hey; it ain't over till it's over."
And how are holiday sales at Ojai's own department store, Rains?
Brisk, according to owner Jeff Rains. "Absolutely no complaints
from this end. We're happy; we're busy; people are happy. Rains,"
he smiles, "is, in a word, happy."
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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