Local merchants see healthy holiday sales; gas prices may be a factor

Local merchants see healthy holiday sales; gas prices may be a factor

Some local retailers are reporting healthy holiday sales, and they could be helped along by lower gasoline prices.

"How are y'all doing today?" said clerk Arielle Schwartz to customers inside Miss Smarty Pants, a clothing and accessories store on Magazine Street.

The mood is merry because of sales.

"We've seen some really good business," said Schwartz.

Nationally, the U.S. Commerce Department said retail sales were up .7 percent in November, and New Orleans retailers may be starting to feel the effects.

"We're glad that [gas prices] are down, and it's good to see it below $3," said shopper Peggy Parr.

Inside Hazelnut, another Magazine Street store with an abundance of unique merchandise, co-owner Bryan Batt gift-wrapped some customer purchases. He cherishes the holiday season and the store's location.

"It's almost a 6-mile stretch of individually owned businesses," Batt said. "There are a few franchises, but for the most part it's the individual taste of the owner."

Batt said his store is seeing off and on spikes in sales this shopping season, but he does not know for sure if lower gasoline prices are the driver.

"For the most part, people are coming out and shopping and spending and having a good time - shopping local," said Batt.

Canal Street stores also hope to benefit from the extra disposable income consumers have.

"We've got over 50 new stores downtown just in the last one year," said Kurt Weigle, CEO of the Downtown Development District.

A lot of the new stores are inside the revamped Riverwalk Mall on the riverfront.

"In the last couple of weeks, I know that some of retailers downtown in the last couple of weeks have done extraordinarily well. We hope that is going to continue through the season," said Weigle.

And with two weeks of shopping left before the big holiday, sales are expected to get even better for local merchants.

"I think a lot of people are hoping that the decreased price of gas is going to translate into more gift-giving and more purchasing," said Weigle.

It is a holiday wish citywide.

"It's definitely a really good time of the year, especially for small boutiques on Magazine Street, and we really appreciate all the local people coming out and supporting small boutiques," said Schwartz.

Retail sales are up 5.1 percent over the past 12 months. Much of the spending is on clothing, electronics, and cars.

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