As Oak Park retailers gear up for the last shopping days before Christmas, some business owners are saying this has already been their best year ever.
November and December can make or break some shops, and over at The Book Table, 1045 Lake, they’re making it. With three days left before Christmas, 2010 has already been the most successful holiday season in the retailer’s seven years, and Saturday was the most successful single day, said co-owner Jason Smith.
“It’s the best season we’ve ever had,” he said. “Books work.”
Their product seems to be recession proof, according to Smith. It also helps that a number of hot-selling books have been released this season, such as The Autobiography of Mark Twain, a new book by David Sedaris, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents Earth. The bookstore has also added a smattering of non-book items to its repertoire, such as T-shirts, calendars and watches.
Smith partly attributes the resurgence of the 100 block of North Marion (the former mall) — where every empty storefront has quickly filled up this year — to his store’s successful 2010.
“We’ve been very excited by the new faces we see around the corner,” Smith said. “We still have a ways to go on Lake Street itself, but Marion Street is definitely a happy story.”
One of those new faces is Sugarcup Trading, 110 N. Marion, which just opened last month. The store deals in trendy clothes, toys, games and collectibles, and adds the twist that kids can exchange their old items for points to spend at the store.
Owner Michelle Vanderlaan said they have been “pleasantly pleased” with the results thus far through their first December. Some items have flown off the shelves, such as a line of dresses made from recycled, organic cotton, which they’ve already had to reorder three times.
They’ve looked for unique ways to keep bodies coming through the door, she said, such as having their “advisory team” of Oak Park children come up with a top-10 list of items that kids want for Christmas. One popular item is a bank that has three slots for money — for saving, spending and sharing.
“That was really helpful for parents,” she said. “They really loved knowing that they’re getting gifts that kids actually want to have.”
At Geppetto’s Toy Box, 730 Lake, business has been “unpredictable” according to co-owner Eric Masoncup. Some days will be “packed,” while others will be almost quiet. They’ve been trying to gauge the ebbs and flow of traffic and order accordingly, with board games and science kits being some of the hotter items.
“We haven’t been setting records by any means, but it’s been OK,” Masoncup said.
Over at Fly Bird, 719 Lake, Julia Nash said she, too, is having her best year ever. The average dollar amount of each transaction is down, but way more people are coming through their doors. She attributes that partly to Oak Parkers’ efforts to shop local and keep their dollars within the community.
Nash has had to increase both inventory and staff to accommodate the bustling season. Some of the popular sellers have been small-ticket items such as thumb-wrestling masks and Pac-Man cookie cutters.
Despite the early successes, she’s still counting on the last few days to be big.
“Christmas Eves tend to be a lot of husbands and boyfriends just scrambling,” she said. “It’s cool to help them out, especially if we know who they’re buying for.”