The holiday season brought cheer to many families, but some local business owners aren’t as cheerful when looking at their fourth quarter results.
The month of November featured streets bustling with customers. Events such as a Small Business Saturday and a Girls Night Out pulled shoppers to the streets of Mount Airy. However, according to some business owners, 2016’s month of December lagged behind holiday seasons of years past.
“This was our worst year in 30 years,” said Ann Leonard, who helps run family-owned Leonard’s Jewelers.
Leonard said she had spoken to other business owners. Most had seen the same sort of decline in sales, while a few did really well.
She said the store had a “12 days of Christmas sale,” which was advertised on Facebook and in the store’s windows, but the results just weren’t there.
Walter Leonard, who, at age 87, has seen many holiday seasons come and go, concurred with his daughter.
He said the jewelry market is tough, as his store is competing against online sales and big-box department stores. There has also been an influx of moissanite jewelry in the market, replacing a girl’s best friend — diamonds.
Leonard said he sees moissanite passed off as diamonds and gold plated jewelry passed off as gold every day, and it has hurt business at the small Main Street establishment.
Perhaps, some guys neglected the women in their lives but still remembered the little ones.
Thelma Allen, at Mount Airy Tractor Toyland, sang a brighter tune.
“We did well, but not as well as in some years past,” explained Allen, who noted there were good days and bad days in business on Main Street.
She said the week leading up to Christmas yielded high sales numbers.
“That last week made the quarter,” noted Allen.
At Memories on Main, Rose Ayers indicated sales in the 2016 holiday season were down significantly.
“We are down $3,000 from last year,” said Ayers.
Ayers said she has seen less business throughout the entire year. She attributes the trend to a number of stores on Main Street competing in the same market — antiques, in the case of her store.
Ayers also believes some election year uneasiness may be contributing to the trend. There has also been less foot-traffic on Main Street.
“We need events throughout the entire year that attract locals and visitors to downtown Mount Airy,” said Ayers.
Bear Creek Gifts is in the middle of its 50-percent-off Christmas sale, said owner Steven Martin, indicating the sale is the end to what has been a slower holiday season.
“The foot traffic was not as heavy as in years past,” explained Martin. “Overall, it was another good Christmas season, but it did seem slower.”
He said there were few early-risers wandering into the store in 2016. Business would pick up in the afternoon hours. People came out for events early in the season, but not so much in the month of December.
“I still can’t complain,” said Martin, noting business was especially good in the week following Christmas.
He also said the traditional thought businesses make their year around the holidays simply doesn’t stand true in Mount Airy.
“People think the fourth quarter makes you, but it’s the summer months where you do really well,” added Martin.
He said he’s still happy to be doing business in Mount Airy.
“I’d rather be on this Main Street than any other Main Street,” concluded Martin.
While retailers may not have fared as well this year, one local restaurant owner said people were definitely eating in Mount Airy throughout the holiday season.
“It has been excellent,” said Loaded Goat owner Craig Deas on Saturday. “These last two weeks, in particular, have been very solid.”
Deas said he saw a steady stream of folks at his bar and grill throughout the holiday season. He also spoke with other restaurant owners, who indicated business had been some of the best in decades at their establishments.
Jennie Lowry, secretary of the Downtown Business Association, said what she had seen and heard jived with what some of the other business owners had indicated.
“Sales were a little off this year,” said Lowry, who attributed much of the decline to online sales.
“People don’t realize when they shop online that money leaves the community,” said Lowry. “It is local businesses which give back to the community.”
There’s a silver lining to every cloud, however. Lowry said the week following Christmas has yielded many visitors to Mount Airy.
“There have been large numbers of visitors downtown,” explained Lowry. “The visitor center’s numbers are high.”
She noted the large numbers of tourists has led to higher sales in the final week of 2016.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.