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Holidays are chilly for some retailers

For many businesses, Christmas is the busiest time of the year. Others grind to a halt.

By COLLINS CONNER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 22, 2002


NEW PORT RICHEY -- This shopping season, as mall sales clerks careened from customer to customer, the folks at Carpet and Tile Outlet in New Port Richey tidied their showroom, rolled up rug remnants and used the quiet work hours to finish their own Christmas cards.

True, cash flows during the holidays. But it doesn't flow to every corner.

For some merchants, Christmas is the off-season -- the perfect time to cut advertising, close up shop or do the administrative chores that got shoved aside when business was brisk.

Christmas shoppers don't buy bathing suits, for instance. So B Risque Swimwear in Holiday dropped its staff to a third of its peak season number, closed Sundays and shortened its opening hours the rest of the week.

"It's catch-up time," store co-owner Crystal Robson said. "We're prepping the store for the next season, getting our inventory for the next season and getting new products on our online store.

"This year, for the first time, we'll be shutting down between Christmas and New Year's."

Christmas shoppers don't buy landscape plants, either. "We stay busy with our builders," said Annette Silva, one of the owners of Landscapes Unlimited Garden Center in New Port Richey.

"We don't have the traffic of people buying plants. A lot of homeowners have put up lights and Christmas decorations, and they don't want to plant new plants. So the majority of our work is with builders" constructing new homes, she said.

New home construction also helps National Pools of Pasco survive the lack of retail trade during the holidays.

"As far as the retail end of the pool business, it's pretty dead," sales manager Allen Sigmon said. High ticket items are not usually picked by people doing their Christmas shopping." At this time of year, retail sales appointments drop from 10 to 15 per week to three or four a week, Sigmon said.

"It's a good time for us to take a vacation," Sigmon said.

Weight loss programs take a nosedive over the holidays.

New memberships in Weight Watchers are meager between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the company said. The company is running a membership special: $20 for those who join by Dec. 21.

Overeaters Anonymous, a support group for people with weight problems, triples its meetings on Thanksgiving Day, but it is likely only current members attend.

In a few weeks, when the celebrations settle on the hips of the partygoers, membership will climb.

"We're particularly alert to an influx of new members after New Year's Day," said Tina, a contact person for OA.

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