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Albany retailers say Christmas shopping has been strong

Many local retail stores feel business has been good this year

Place on the Pointe manager Honey Bolton works on a display arrangement of Christopher Radko ornaments, which are popular sellers for the store this holiday season. (Staff Photo: Brad McEwen)

Place on the Pointe manager Honey Bolton works on a display arrangement of Christopher Radko ornaments, which are popular sellers for the store this holiday season. (Staff Photo: Brad McEwen)

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Blakely Brown, an employee at blush, gets a display of necklaces just right. (Staff Photo: Brad McEwen)

ALBANY — With the Christmas shopping season in full swing, many area retailers say business has been steady and on par, if not better, than last year.

From clothing to electronics, from toys to cosmetics, and everything in between, many area businesses feel the holiday shopping season has been good for a variety of reasons.

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Hillary Bell, an employee at Blush clothing boutique, arranges a display of locally made Katielou jewelry. (Staff Photo: Brad McEwen)

According to Kate Henry, owner of the clothing boutique Blush, Christmas has always been an important season and she feels sales have continued to increase each year as more people become familiar with the store, which first opened its doors in 2007.

“Christmas is very important to us,” said Henry. “It’s definitely our busiest time of year. It keeps getting better and better each year as more people know about our store.”

Henry also attributed good customer traffic to the store’s use of technology.

“Social media has really helped us,” said Henry.

Henry said fashion trends dictate a lot of what shoppers are buying, with this year’s biggest sellers being printed leggings, Aztec prints and solid tunics.

“Scarves of any kind are big this time of year too,” Henry added. “And faux fur vests. I can hardly keep those in stock. Anything with elbow patches and big chunky sweaters are popular too. And everybody needs a good pair of boots.”

Apparel has also been selling well at the Shoe Box in the Albany Mall. According to store manager Jason Mulford, apparel lines such as Southern Marsh, Southern Shirt Company and Vineyard have been popular. Also popular are items from Over Under and Collard Greens, both of which advertise that their clothing is entirely made in the United States.

“That’s really been pretty good this year,” Mulford said. “A lot of people like that those things are stamped made in the USA.”

Mulford said business in general appears to be good, but that it has fluctuated a lot since starting strong with Black Friday.

“Overall it’s been about the same as last year,” said Mulford. “Black Friday was good. Since then it’s been up and it’s been down each week. This week and next will really tell the tale, but so far it’s been good.”

Honey Bolton, manager of Place on the Pointe, attributes that store’s strong sales this season to increased customer confidence in regard to the economy.

“It’s been a little better than last year,” Bolton said. “People seem to have more confidence when spending.”

Bolton is quick to point out though, that Place on the Pointe does well historically this time of year due to the items they carry.

“We carry a variety of items that make good gifts for Christmas,” Bolton said. “Christopher Radko ornaments, Mark Roberts, and Vera Bradley. Thymes Frasier Fir candles are popular too. They’re our No. 1 teacher or hostess gift.”

Convenience, variety and increased confidence in the economy have also been important factors in good holiday sales for Dillard’s and Kohl’s as well.

“So far this year looks to be a good one, but we won’t know exactly until some time in January,” said Dillard’s Assistant Store Manager Kevin Raible. “The big thing is, this year was a leap year, so we have one less week of shopping from Thanksgiving to Christmas, so it’s hard to tell right now. The week before Christmas is always a factor. People have got to get that last minute gift. They’re grabbing things and just going.”

Raible added that despite having one less shopping week, sales have been steady since Black Friday, with cosmetics, fragrances and clothing being the strongest sellers.

“The big thing right now is Michael Kors,” said Raible. “Especially handbags. Ugg shoes and Ralph Lauren, Polo are always popular too.”

Kohl’s Customer Service Area Supervisor Jesselyn Dyer said while clothing has been selling well for the retailer, she feels customers have been buying a variety of items this year.

“This year everybody’s buying a bit of everything,” Dyer said. “We’re seeing people buying home decor things, beauty-type stocking-stuffer things, and toys and electronics. Toys have been very big for us and we have a lot of electronics we’ve never had before like Beats Audio by Dr. Dre.”

Dyer said even though sales have been strong for the retailer since Black Friday, the store is doing something different this year to help last minute shoppers.

“The big thing for us this year, starting December 20, we’ll be open 24 hours a day until we close Christmas Eve at 6 p.m. This is the first year we’ve done that.”

As the Christmas shopping season builds to a crescendo most retailers agree that shoppers looking for the right gifts for their friends, coworkers and loved ones, should try to get to the stores as soon as they can to make sure they are able to find what they are seeking.