Local Retailers Had a Mixed Holiday Bag

By Dave DeWitte, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - The holiday retail season that winds down this week was a mixed bag for local retailers.

Selling University of Iowa Hawkeye logo apparel and products? Not such a good year.

"A lot of how our sales go has to do with how the (Hawkeyes') season does," said Deb Heck, manager of the Black & Gold shop, 1000 25th Ave., Coralville. "There's no bowl game this year for the first time in ... I'm not exactly sure."

Because of the reduced fan attention, Heck did not think sales will be up to last year's levels. The year wasn't a washout, however. When there's less football action to drive sales, she said sales tend to revolve more around more generic Iowa apparel that's suitable for occasions other than games.

"I was really happy to see the luxury market was still vibrant," said Mark Ginsberg of M.C. Ginsberg: Objects of Art, 110 E. Washington St., Iowa City.

M.C. Ginsberg: Objects of Art is known for custom-crafted and unique jewelry items. The store sold several Swiss-made Patek Philippe wrist watches that run into the "high five figures" price category, and demand remained good for custom crafted jewelry.

Sales were up almost 30 percent for the season at the store, Ginsberg said, although part of that was due to non-holiday retail sales of medical device prototypes and models. Some sales spill over, Ginsberg said, when researchers who work with his company on prototypes for medical devices become jewelry customers.

Tami Smith of Fashions by the Hall Tree, a women's apparel store in Collins Road Square shopping Center in Marion, called it "a decent year" that probably won't stack up a whole lot different from last year.

Smith said the weather was a little better for coat sales than during the mild holiday portion of the 2011 winter, and last-minute gift card sales went better than a year ago. Fashions by the Hall Tree also has stores in Urbandale, Pella, Ankeny and Sioux City.

Rob Richards and Sally Ahrens, his sister, operate the Something Special housewares shop at Westdale Mall in southwest Cedar Rapids, as well as in Davenport and Moline, Ill. Richards couldn't tell if there is any improvement in Westdale's overall traffic, but he wasn't complaining about the season.

"I was happy with it and really glad to see a lot of the customers coming back from previous years," Richards said.

Like many other retailers, Richards hadn't pulled the curtain on the holiday season.

Retailers often get a second or third visit from the same customers after Christmas, as they come back to make exchanges or returns, or simply to look for end-of-season bargains.
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