Rochester reports a steady holiday shopping season

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published January 30, 2013

ROCHESTER — Although the official holiday sales numbers have yet to be tallied, Kristi Trevarrow, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority, said she’s heard nothing but positive comments from the merchants downtown.

“We haven’t done a survey yet, but just from my walking around and talking to businesses, everyone has said that this was one of the best seasons in years,” she said.

The Big, Bright Light Show — which the DDA launched seven 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 mild winter weather this year also had an impact.

“Weather is always a big factor with Big, Bright Light Show because the thing about the show is that, as much as some people drive through it, the majority of people love to get out and walk it. And if it’s just a little bit too cold, they don’t want to do it, so then it becomes a drive-through show, so weather like this, this past year, it was absolutely perfect,” she said.

A newly reopened Main Street may have also contributed to the sound of cash registers ringing for retailers in Rochester.

“Coming out of the Main Street Makeover, a lot of people — as much as we tried to let them know that downtown was open and it was easy to shop — stayed away until the construction was over. So I think as soon as the holidays hit, everyone knew Rochester was open, the streets were open, and everything was back to normal. I think everyone really made an effort to come out this holiday season and support the downtown businesses,” Trevarrow added.

Across Michigan, 54 percent of retailers reported better holiday sales than last year, according to the Michigan Retail Index. Overall, holiday sales at individual Michigan stores and websites were up an average of 2.9 percent, according to the monthly survey of Michigan Retailers Association member businesses. However, Michigan retail sales fell off sharply at the end of the year; December’s sales index number fell to 46.6 from 60.2 in November.

MRA President and CEO James P. Hallan said in a statement that it’s fair to call the holiday shopping results across Michigan “mixed.”

“December was a disappointment for many Michigan retailers, and it took strong sales in October and November to offset that end-of-year dip,” he said in a statement.

It’s anyone’s guess as to why holiday shoppers dipped into their wallets earlier in the holiday shopping season. If you ask Hallan, the fact that the unemployment rate was stuck at 8.9 percent in December definitely had an impact.

“And perhaps shoppers became cautious over the inaction in Washington prior to Christmas to resolve the ‘fiscal cliff’ issue and prevent significant tax increases,” he said in a statement.

Moving ahead, 40 percent of Michigan retailers expect sales for January-March to increase during the same period last year, while 22 percent project a decrease, and 38 percent no change.