Shoppers make season bright for retailers

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published January 4, 2012

 Elyse Jackson of Bloomfield Hills, left, checks out the sale rack at Caruso Caruso in Birmingham with her cousin Brittany Jackson of Nashville, Tenn.

Elyse Jackson of Bloomfield Hills, left, checks out the sale rack at Caruso Caruso in Birmingham with her cousin Brittany Jackson of Nashville, Tenn.

Photo by Tiffany Esshaki

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BIRMINGHAM — Those weren’t just jingle bells you heard last month. According to many retailers in Birmingham, that ringing was the sound of cash registers in the midst of a bountiful holiday shopping season.

John Heiney, executive director of the Principal Shopping District, said several merchants he’s spoken with over the past few weeks have reported good holiday sales. In fact, most told Heiney that they expect to exceed last year’s totals.

Frank Caruso, owner of Caruso Caruso, said he was one of the fortunate ones who saw an increase in sales this season.

“I think there was the same amount of people, but they were more excited about buying things, more positive about buying things,” he said.

Heiney agreed, saying that many of the people he had spoken with mentioned that their customers were generally more upbeat this year.

According to the Michigan Retailers Association, Birmingham is right on track with the rest of the state, which has been seeing increases since September. Nationwide, 45 percent of retailers expect to see sales between the months of December and February increase over the same period last year. In fact, when results for the 2011 holiday shopping season are made public later this month, Michigan could see as much as a 6 percent gain over last year’s season, according to the MRA.

“While at the time that figure was more optimistic than most national economists’ forecasts, it appears right now that it was an achievable projection. But we’ll have to wait and see the final numbers,” MRA President and CEO James Hallan said in a release.

As to why holiday spending was up in what’s still described as a down economy, no one can say for sure, but Caruso has a guess.

“Nothing’s changed, other than their attitude. I think they’re fed up with being cautious and just decided it’s time to start spending some money again.”

Heiney suspects one of the reasons may be the new shopping options that have emerged in Birmingham this year, bringing the city’s retail occupancy in 2011 to 95.7 percent.

“National retailers Paper Source and J. McLaughlin have already made an impact in Birmingham’s retail scene,” he said. “The relocation of Sanders to North Old Woodward has created a lot of excitement among Birmingham shoppers who remember the original downtown store many years ago.”

He added that several more stores are slated to open in the new year, including national retail prospects that are considering Birmingham as home for their next location.

Someone who will likely be there to give these new stores a test run is Birmingham resident Mallory Miller. She said she usually does most of her holiday shopping in Birmingham, and this year was no exception.

“My go-to for gifts is Stacey Leuliette. The girls there are always so helpful in finding the perfect gift,” she said. “Also, I score great gifts for my husband, father and brother at the Claymore Shop. The service just cannot be beat, and their selection of men’s apparel is truly one of the best in the country.”

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