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Holiday spending declined by about half in 2008, according to the American Research Group Inc. The annual survey, conducted for 26 years, showed spending increased the past two years after bottoming out three years ago.
Oldham County business owners reported strong sales not just for retailers — restaurants and even locally-based online business say the season went well, too.
La Grange businesses in particular pointed to the Light Up La Grange kickoff and continuing lightshow as a major sales boost.
The Era talked to owners of a variety of businesses across Oldham County — now that the holiday rush is over, here’s how they fared.
Both new and established Oldham County business owners are pleased with sales during the holiday season.
At Karen’s Book Barn and Java Stop, sales increased 18 percent during Light Up La Grange. Many people returned after the light show to purchase items, said owner Karen Eldridge.
On the western side of Oldham County, Prospect Jewelers owner Rob Prince said sales stayed about the same as last year and that “life is good.”
Prince said December is a big time for jewelry repairs and gift purchases — and is also a time for Prospect Jewelers staff to catch up with customers.
“The holidays are really fun,” Prince said. “We get to visit and check up on how things have changed in people’s lives.”
Prince said colored gemstone jewelry items sold well this year, as did diamond hoop earrings.
Prospect Jewelers also does a lot of custom and unique work, Prince said, including restoring and monogramming an 1800s keepsake box. A diamond ring inside the box completed the gift.
Its another example of a successful year, Prince said.
“It was a good year, we’re very pleased,” he said. “We’re looking forward to 2012.”
Brownsboro Hardware owner Jim Lehrer said both his locations improved sales over last year, too.
“It was a terrific holiday season for us,” he said.
Christmas department sales increased 46 percent over last year, Lehrer said, in part because his stores had lights in stock when shoppers encountered empty shelves elsewhere.
Grills sold well this year, especially compared to past years during the recession. Lehrer said the recovering economy seems to be allowing people to purchase grills who have been putting it off.
Brownsboro Hardware is the area’s largest retailer of Weber grills and Big Green Egg charcoal cookers, Lehrer said.
In Crestwood, Tom McShane’s store began the season with a slow start. Hewn From The Mountain Music Cafe, which specializes in acoustic instruments, didn’t see a lot of business the weekend after Thanksgiving.
“I was speculating that as it neared Christmas, people would start to think about giving more meaningful gifts, and would visit the small shops,” he said. He was right — the store’s best days were the three days before Christmas, including Christmas Eve.
“Those ‘last minute’ gifts are always the best, because buyers finally decide to go ahead and ‘make the plunge’ and get that really nice thing,” he said.
On a slightly larger scale, Wal-Mart manager Gordon Haymaker said the store stayed “extremely busy.”
“It was a good, solid Christmas,” he said. “Layaway helped tremendously.”
Haymaker said electronics and toys led sales, including Fijit Friends robots and the LeapFrog Leappad educational laptop.
Crestwood resident Ursula Robertson-Moore started Uppercases LLC, a personalized pillowcase business, almost three years ago with business partner Kris Faller, and this Christmas season was “the best we’ve ever had.”
Robertson-Moore said using Etsy, an online site for handmade and vintage items, makes a huge difference.
This year, Robertson-Moore sent a large number of pillowcases from military wives to their husbands stationed overseas touting the man as the world’s best father or husband.
The company added aprons this year, and a “best grandma” design with grandchildren’s names is a popular item.
“We shipped until Dec. 24,” Robertson-Moore said. “Then we thought it would trail off — but it hasn’t.”
Now, the company is gearing up for its next big holiday — Valentine’s Day.
“Etsy has put us on the world map in a way we never were before,” Robertson-Moore said.
Restaurants and other food purveyors see a boost in sales during the holidays, with people dining out with family and co-workers and picking up treats for parties.
Q&A Sweet Treats, owner Andrea Essenpreis said Light Up La Grange drew customers into her store, too.
Essenpreis’ treats are a staple at many Oldham County shops, but Essenpreis opened a storefront location Nov. 26.
Having the store is “absolutely helping” sales, she said.
For the holidays, Essenpreis is a little surprised at the number of orders for decorated cakes — she said she made five times what she normally does.
Decorated sugar cookies are another big seller, she said, as people bought them take to schools, offices and parties.
Oldham County business owners shared the holiday spirit by giving back. On Main Street in La Grange, many stores collected non-perishable food items and pet food to donate to charity. Customers who participated in the program received a discount on their purchase.
Haymaker said he and members of the La Grange Walmart management team put together 125 fruit baskets to donate to patients at The Richwood.
Essenpreiss shares the spirit year-round by donating leftover items to the Ronald McDonald House in Louisville, and welcomes requests from other charities.
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