Holiday shopping heats up

Rogue Valley mom and pop retailers shook off the icicles and welcomed a second rush of Christmas shoppers this weekend.

Snow and ice froze out many shoppers for days until temperatures rose long enough to clear roads .

"I was looking back at our sales sheets and there were a few days no one came in," said Suzanne O'Berry at The Crown Jewel in Ashland. "Then, when the town finally thawed out, everyone was going stir crazy and they were able get out and do some shopping."

The Crown Jewell recently relocated to an East Main Street location in Ashland.

"We changed buildings the day after Thanksgiving, got prepared for our 'grand opening' and on (Dec. 6), traffic just stopped because there was so much snow on Main Street.

"Then on Thursday, it was 'Wow,' everybody was trying to catch back up. Everyone was getting cabin fever for six days because they could only get to the nearest location. It seems like everyone is showing up late."

A few blocks away at the Ashland Outdoor Store, Erik Hamlet saw the wintry blast as a mixed blessing.

"With our kind of store, it was actually beneficial — if people could get in here," said Hamlet.

"They were buying ICEtrekkers, which is similar to having chains on your shoes."

Shoppers, who weren't trapped at home, were snapping up hats, gloves and coats.

"We've been super busy since the thaw," he said. "We've seen a lot of cheerful people."

Brian Beels, who owns Ashland's Unicorn Gifts & Toys along with his wife Karen, said he is often asked about local snowfall when he travels.

"Usually, if someone asks if we get snow, I'll say Ashland gets enough snow to be romantic, but usually we don't have to use a shovel."

He said his staff didn't see many people in the morning at the East Main Street shop, but activity picked up in the afternoons.

"I don't know if people were braver in the afternoon or if it correlated with kids getting out of school," Beels said. "If I know I'm picking somebody up at 2 o'clock, I might as well shop at 1."

Over in Jacksonville, slippery roads and treacherous hillsides kept shoppers cooped up in front of the fireplace.

"You can imagine what it's like for five days, locked up because the lack of snow plows in the Rogue Valley," said David Jesser of Jacksonville Mercantile. "It's kind of like placing your finger over the bottle and shaking it. They were happy the heat was on and of course they were ready to shop."

Even though the town's annual parade was cancelled the first weekend of the month because of awful road conditions, Jacksonville's Victorian Christmas withstood the freeze, Jesser said.

"Jacksonville is filled with speciality boutiques, so we are a destination location," he said. "The town is lit up perfectly and when a horse carriage goes by with a full load of people smiling you have to love it."

Jennifer Lindsey, tasting room manager at Gary West Meats in Jacksonville, upped the ante for shoppers who put off a visit during the snow and freeze.

"We're offering fresh-smoked turkey almost at cost, just to get people in the door," Lindsey said. "We're offering 40 percent off on the turkeys through Sunday and then we'll probably offering something next week on hams."

The long-time specialty-food and gift shop on Fifth Street was down about 100 shoppers a day during the cold snap, trimming sales by about $3,000 daily.

"When people, can't get here," Lindsey said. "All of the merchants feel it. There are people who like to be secure in their shopping and get everything done ahead of time. Now they feel week behind."

Company president Paul Murdoch, who found himself in the hospital with a broken leg after slipping off a ladder, said bad weather or not shoppers are tending to delay holiday purchases longer and longer.

"It's an ongoing trend," Murdoch said. "They're shopping later and later every years. The weather just acerbated it, because many of them unfortunately couldn't get out of the house. But I think the soft early numbers are underscore how shoppers are coming in at the last moment. We in the industry have trained shoppers to wait for deals."

At Farmhouse Treasures on West California Street, owner Kelly Cason took a different tack when she elected to donate 20 percent of the sales price for jewelry to ACCESS between Dec. 10 and Dec. 20.

"We've actually had a really good season," Cason said. "Even though it was snowing, the people who came in bought. We got a lot of phone orders too.

"Instead of dwelling on the sales we were missing, I wanted to think more about the people who don't have a roof over their heads or are cold."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness, friend him on Facebook and read his blog at Edge.

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