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January 29, 2014

Downtown Rochester reports another positive holiday shopping season

By Mary Beth Almond
C & G Staff Writer

ROCHESTER — Although the 2012 holiday shopping season was one of the best downtown merchants have had in years, Rochester Downtown Development Authority Director Kristi Trevarrow said the 2013 holiday shopping season didn’t disappoint.

“The 2012 season, I think, was unusually good for us because it was right after Main Street Makeover. People were really excited to come back downtown, and I think we had that momentum continuing throughout the year. We had record attendance at all of our 2013 events, so I can’t say that I was surprised that we had a really strong showing at the end of the year, because overall, it was a really good year for us downtown,” she said.

Overall, Trevarrow said, downtown merchants reported that the 2013 holiday shopping season numbers either remained flat or were up slightly from the previous year.

“It was a good season for us. Approximately 60 percent of the merchants said that sales were the same as last year, or up, so we think that’s pretty darn good, especially since, toward the end of the season, we had that cold snap, which wasn’t so great,” she added.

The Big, Bright Light Show — which the DDA launched eight years ago in an effort to attract people downtown for the holidays — always helps boost business for the merchants downtown, according to Trevarrow. She said the great shops and restaurants available in downtown Rochester also helped draw crowds.

“We have great retail shops, we have great restaurants, and I can’t tell you how many people book their holiday parties down here, so we’re a destination for that. So many families come because it’s become part of their holiday tradition, and we’re starting to see bus tours come here now, so it’s really become a holiday destination. They come for the lights, but they stay because of the great shops and restaurants, and just the overall atmosphere. You can really get your holiday spirit on when you’re down here during the light show,” Trevarrow added.

This was the first holiday shopping season for Wanderlust Boutique, which opened at 404 S. Rochester in October, and owner Ally Martin was pleased with the results. She said scarves, hats and shirts were flying off the shelves.

“It went really well. Better than I expected for my holiday season. It was outrageously busy — definitely everything I hoped for and more,” she said.

Across Michigan however, retailers posted only a 0.1 percent average increase over last holiday season, according to the Michigan Retail Index, a joint project of MRA and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

“Retailers were hit by arctic air, snow and ice storms that knocked out power across the state during the critical final days of the holiday shopping season, when stores should have been full,” James P. Hallan, MRA president and CEO, said in a statement. “At the same time, they continued to be hurt by badly out-of-date laws that give out-of-state online merchants a price advantage over our Michigan companies that invest in Michigan, employ Michigan workers, pay taxes in Michigan and support their Michigan communities.”

The latest Michigan Retail Index showed 38 percent of Michigan retailers increased sales during the holiday season, and 41 percent experienced declines. Twenty-one percent reported flat sales.

Looking ahead, 42 percent of retailers across the state expect sales for January-March to increase over the same period last year, while 25 percent project a decrease and 33 percent expect no change.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Mary Beth Almond at malmond@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1060.