Success of holiday shopping season varies locally
National survey says 90% of people still need to finish buying gifts

By Katherine Michalets - Freeman Staff

Dec. 18, 2015

Amy Kepple adjusts an item at The Barn Owl in Delafield.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

WAUKESHA - Local retailers are reporting mixed results so far this holiday shopping season with only six shopping days left. The good news for those whose sales are lagging behind previous years is that the National Retail Federation reported Tuesday that 90 percent of shoppers still need to finish their gift-buying.

The NRF’s final consumer holiday spending survey of the season released Tuesday indicated that the average holiday shopper has completed 53.5 percent of her shopping, similar to the 52.9 percent seen this time last year. Approximately 10 percent of holiday shoppers say they are finished - or 22.6 million people. 

Amy Keppeler hopes those unfinished shoppers pass through the doors of her downtown Delafield business, The Barn Owl.

“Christmas shopping has been a little more delayed this year,” she said, adding that last-minute shopping has picked up in about the past week-and-a-half.

“I think the weather has a lot to do with that, with having this warmer fall and winter, people aren’t motivated to buy warmer clothing,” Keppeler said.

A Christmas ornament for sale at The Barn Owl in Delafield.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

In addition to clothing items, The Barn Owl sells lotions, jewelry, ornaments and gift items. Keppeler said the store will remain open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Christmas Eve.

“If the momentum keeps up we might be able to keep close to last year’s (sales),” she said.

One area that The Barn Owl saw a lot of improvement regarding sales this year was for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, which is also true for Terri Stine, owner of Fruits of the Spirit Candles in downtown Waukesha.

Overall, the holiday shopping season has gone really well for Stine’s store, which has been hosting free photos with Santa from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. This Saturday will be the final visit by the jolly elf in red before Christmas.

Warmer weather, WDBA campaign cited as factors

“We obviously rely on foot traffic. Having the nicer weather makes it easier for people to walk around,” Stine said.

She also credits the advertising done by the Waukesha Downtown Business Association for its Silver Bells campaign for bringing many families and shoppers to downtown Waukesha.

Fruits of the Spirit Candles will remain open Sunday, despite normally being closed to make that day, but will be closed Christmas Eve. Stine has also participated in the WDBA’s 12 Days of Christmas campaign by offering a discount on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during December for people who bring in food donations for the food pantry. Each store has had a different special.

“We are definitely having a good season here,” Stine said.

Carrie Igielski, owner of Allo Chocolat in downtown Waukesha, said her season has been good so far and should only get better because many people wait until the final days before Christmas to buy chocolate.

“They want their chocolate fresh. We tend to be a last pick-up type of thing,” she said, adding often chocolate and candy will be purchased for gifts for the mail carrier, garbage collector and teachers.

“Our holiday season has been excellent. A lot of people are excited about the downtown. We are surprised, humbled I guess, by the amount of support we get from the community,” Igielski said.

She also believes the warmer weather has helped bring more customers through her doors, although she said some people have commented it also doesn’t feel like Christmas.

“But they are out and about and they are here when they say it,” Igielski said.

The carriage rides, breakfast workshop and other Silver Bells events have also benefited Allo Chocolat, she said. During the final shopping days, Allo Chocolat will be open every day, including from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Christmas Eve.

Tadpoles, a children’s store in downtown Delafield, will also be open Christmas Eve, but owner Kelli Stuckart is hoping to lure customers in Saturday by offering a raffle for a wooden children’s kitchen and holding cookie decorating for kids. For every $25 purchase, a customer will be entered into the raffle Saturday.

Stuckart said the holiday shopping season has only gone OK for her business and there seems to be more last-minute shopping this year. While online sales are popular during the weeks after Thanksgiving, Stuckart said she thinks more people will be visiting brick-and-mortar stores.

“I think there comes a time from now until Christmas ordering may not be an option,” she said.

The NRF reported that 44.8 percent of people said they are still weighing their choices between gifts before buying and 28.8 percent said they wait until mid- to late-December to buy gifts because their friends and family haven’t given them enough ideas as to what they want. Another 22 percent said they are waiting for the best deals on holiday merchandise and 20.8 percent said they are procrastinators.