Community / News / January 12, 2011

Galesburg retail weathers economy

Galesburg retailers had a mixed holiday season in 2010. Overall, there seems to have been an up-tick in sales from the previous year, but they did not necessarily meet expectations for retailers.

Many businesses on Seminary Street and Main Street did not have sales as robust as they would have liked, but did have adequate sales, and confidence for the coming year is high.

Ben “Stone” Stomberg, owner of Stone Alley Books & Collectibles on Seminary Street, said, “The holiday sales, numbers-wise, were not entirely what we hoped it would be, but it was not terrible.”

Toys & Teachers, also on Seminary Street, actually experienced a drop in sales. “[Sales] was nothing spectacular—down from last year about 10 percent, on average. I made my goal, but I knew I would be down because of the economy —I had hoped I would not be down that 10 percent, though,” owner Peg Nelson said.

Toys & Teachers will be closing soon, but not because of the drop in holiday sales; Nelson had planned on retiring back in October.

“If I was going to stay, I would probably not be spending as much in the first quarter,” she said.

Stomberg, however, does not expect the lukewarm holiday sales to affect business in any serious way. “It is what it is. Sales were up, just not what we would have wanted, but we are actually expanding inventory [this year]. We expect business to go up over the year. The winter tends to be slower, but we’re planning some events to kind of offset that.”

Capitol Music on Main Street had strong sales this season, though they did not follow the usual pattern. “[The holiday season] was decent. Generally, the increase hits around the holidays, a slow rise, and the week before Christmas really good. The first few weeks [of the holidays] were some of the worst this year, but the last week was huge,” Steve Southard, manager at the record store, said.

Southard attributed this to an overall change in buying behavior. “It seemed like people were really holding onto their money,” he said. “We still ended up making our goal for the season — just in a different way. It seemed like the holiday buying spirit ran right up until last week.”

While it was a mixed bag for small businesses, larger retailers in Galesburg may have experienced an overall improvement in sales during the 2010 holidays. According to Beth DeJaynes, property manager for the Sandburg Mall, Black Friday sales “for our anchor managers, Sears, Penny’s, Kmart, Bergner’s were all up.”

DeJaynes continued, “Many of my stores that have reported [for last year] have had sales that have gone up.”

Just as with other businesses in Galesburg, however, the holidays were hit and miss. “For some merchants, sales were up, for others, down,” DeJaynes said. In the end, though, DeJaynes said, “It was better than expected.”

The Galesburg Area Chamber of Commerce said that it was too early to get a comprehensive view on holiday sales for Galesburg as income tax data was not yet available.

Ben Reeves

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