Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

32° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Holiday business defies expected downturn

The holiday season was a busy one for many downtown Evanston merchants, according to a survey released Friday by Evanston organization EVMark.

Information obtained through interviews with nearly a third of local retailers showed 67 percent of merchants said their holiday sales had improved, EVMark representatives said.

“A lot of folks I talked to were initially nervous about the season,” said Diane Williams, EVMark’s executive director. “They were generally pleased with the way the season turned out.”

Trish Bosch, manager of Uncle Dan’s sporting-goods store, 700 Church St., said a lot of customers seemed to be in the holiday shopping mood this year. The store saw an increase in sales of camping apparel and supplies.

Bosch attributed the increased sales to the store’s wider variety of products and to shipments that arrived in time for the holiday season.

“We were lucky in timing things right as far as bringing stuff in,” Bosch said.

Timing also was right for Nabih Mangoubi, owner of Nabih’s computer store, 515 Davis St., who said his business had iPods in stock for the holiday season.

“The 10 GB iPod ran out about two or three days before Christmas,” Mangoubi said. “One or two days before Christmas — to run out of anything — is not bad.”

Martha Rosenberg, director of marketing for EVMark, said she was most surprised by the success of smaller businesses.

“One thing I was surprised about was that these offbeat, independent boutiques did as well as they did,” Rosenberg said.

Francesca’s Collection, 1706 Maple Ave., a store at Church Street Plaza that sells items such as clothes, jewelry, lamps and other accessories, opened in June 2003. Store Manager Staci Anne Howard said she was pleased with the season’s sales.

“This was our first year, so this was our first holiday season,” Howard said. “I think, overall, the Plaza did well.”

While many of the merchants interviewed reported growth in sales, 21 percent of those retailers had increased their sales 10 percent or more, Williams said.

Linda DeWoskin, owner of Something Wicked bookstore, 816 Church St., attributed her store’s 35-percent increase to the economy and the unseasonably warm weather.

“By being a bricks-and-mortar store in a downtown area, we depend on foot traffic and passers-by,” said DeWoskin, Communication ’82 and Law ’85. “When you have a bitter cold, you put your head down and get to where you are going.”

DeWoskin said “The Lord of the Rings” items, including action figures, books and a collectible card game, also were big factors in sales.

“That was not only a big movie, but we carried a lot of ‘Lord of the Rings’ merchandise, even before the movies and after and since,” DeWoskin said.

But not all businesses had a bustling holiday season. Eighteen percent of those included in EVMark’s survey reported a decrease in sales.

Rosenberg attributed the decreased sales to increased competition and construction around stores.

Mike Lembeck, owner of The Walking Spirit shoe store, 710 Church St., said his business experienced a “significant decrease” in sales. Lembeck said he thought people are doing more of their shopping at Skokie’s Westfield Shoppingtown Old Orchard, where there is more available parking.

“It’s difficult for customers to come and shop around here,” Lembeck said. “There’s too many empty store fronts.”

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Holiday business defies expected downturn