Winter storm hampers local Portage County retail sales

By Diane Smith | Staff Writer Published:

Despite Wednesday's snowstorm, bargain hunters got up early to check out the deals at local stores, though sales seemed to dwindle as the weather picked up.

At Vale Edge Hallmark in Ravenna, shoppers came in looking for discounts. Employees said the store is always busy the day after Christmas. Many of the store's holiday items were 20 to 50 percent off.

"When we opened, there was a line outside the door," store employee Stacey Lim said.

At Off the Wagon in Kent, the store wasn't as busy, but that was probably because it opened at 11 a.m., just when the snowstorm started to hit the downtown. The store had a table of holiday items that were discounted 50 percent for the year-end clearance.

Despite the fact that only a few customers braved the weather, employee Ariel Miller said the holiday season has been busy for the store.

"It's been a great season, and sales have been picking up," she said. "There seem to be more people shopping locally this year, which is awesome. Small Business Saturday did really well, and it's just continued ever since."

At Logos Bookstore in Kent, owner Ann Kardos posted on the store's Facebook page that the store was closing early because of the snowstorm.

"I don't want anyone driving to Logos to get a book about heaven, and then find out what heaven is like because of a snowy wreck," she wrote.

Kardos said Wednesday has been "an atypical Boxing Day" for the store, with only about five customers stopping in by mid-afternoon. One customer said she wasn't sure the store would even be open.

She said that she also noticed that more people seemed to be shopping locally this year, and thinks consumer confidence may be picking up.

Nationwide, retailers are counting on a post-Christmas spending binge to salvage this holiday shopping season.

Despite the huge discounts and other incentives that stores offered leading up to Christmas, U.S. holiday sales so far this year have been the weakest since 2008, when the nation was in a deep recession.

Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman at The National Retail Federation, the nation's largest retail trade group, said Wednesday the trade group is sticking to its forecast for sales in the November and December period to be up 4.1 percent to $586.1 billion this year. That's more than a percentage point lower than the growth in each of the past two years, and the smallest increase since 2009 when sales were up just 0.3 percent.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1139 or dsmith@recordpub.com

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