Local retail reflecting national sales’ trends

Lines formed at the From the Heart check-out counter Saturday as shoppers made their final Christmas purchases. Donna Goff, first in line, was looking for gifts for her daughter. STAFF PHOTO/STACI WILSON

BY STACI WILSON

One Montrose merchant said retail sales through the holiday season reflected the same trends that have been happening nationally.

With people paying attention to international instability, the “fiscal cliff” debate, unseasonably warm weather and the tragic slaying in Newtown, Conn., many people have put off their holiday shopping.

“People didn’t realize Christmas was this close,” said Nancy Wood, owner of the Butler’s Pantry in Montrose, on Friday.

Twyla Puterbaugh, owner of From the Heart, on Public Ave., Montrose, has seen an increase in sales and visitors to her shop from previous years during the past two holiday shopping seasons.

“People have been more focused on shopping local and supporting small businesses,” Puterbaugh said.

She credits the American Express created “Small Business Saturday” with helping to direct shoppers to local retailers.

Donna Conklin, of Conklin’s Unique Country on Butterfield Rd., in Lakeside, said, “More people were interested in ‘buying local.’ There was a woman here on Black Friday who mentioned she takes that day to visit local retailers.

“She was here and then planned to go to From the Heart and Carlson’s. That’s always good to hear,” Conklin said.

Puterbaugh also said the From the Heart presence on Facebook also helped to bolster traffic into the shop this season.

She said Facebook allows her to alert customers to the arrival of new products and communicate with shoppers on an immediate and one-on-one basis.

At the Butler’s Pantry, Wood said, “Black Friday was awesome.”

And she said she has pulled in more customers this year from the Triple Cities and Owego, N.Y., area.

Wood credits her decision to step up advertising efforts this year, with ads appearing in rotating weeks in Times Shamrock Weekly Group publications, including the Susquehanna County Independent. “The best decision I ever made was to do that,” Wood said. “It helped having an ad appearing somewhere every week.”

Wood’s store, The Butler’s Pantry, specializes in tableware, kitchen and cooking items. Wood said, “There’s always some gadget that we run out of, and I’m like, ‘Who knew?’”

This year, Wood said the run has been on cookie sheets and potato mashers.

Usually cookie sheets become big sellers before Thanksgiving, Wood said, requiring her to replenish the stock in mid-December.

This year’s run on the baking necessity came about mid-month. Another indication, Wood said, that people weren’t really thinking about Christmas after the Black Friday rush.

The cookie sheets stocked at the shop are made in the United States, as are many of the items Wood carries in the store – from Fiesta Dinnerware to glassware to some of the specialty food items.

“People respond to it,” Wood said of the ‘Made in the USA’ label. “It’s made better,” she said. “I feel better selling items that are well-made.”

And people are also responding to one U.S. food product stocked on the Butler’s Pantry shelves. The Blue Crab Bay Company’s clam dip kit.

“There’s been a bumper crop of clams this year out of the Chesapeake Bay,” Wood said. She was able to purchase the dip kits, which include the clams and the seasoning, at a good price and she’s passing that savings on to her shoppers.

At From the Heart, jewelry is always a top-seller, Puterbaugh said. And it has remained so during this shopping season, too.

But women’s fashion scarves have also been selling well at the store.

Puterbaugh said, “I knew they were growing in popularity, but I didn’t realize how big it was going to be.”

During this season, Puterbaugh has reordered scarves several times. “I’ve ordered more scarves than ever before,” she said, reporting Saturday that she was almost sold out of the latest arrivals on her store shelves.

At Conklin’s, furniture sales were down from last year but shoppers scooped up decorative items, especially small wire trees and a Christmas Angel ornament.

Boxed cards, over individual ones, were also a big seller, Conklin said.