Retail sales for the holiday season in Baton Rouge appear headed for a significant gain over those recorded in November and December a year ago, according to some local owners and managers.
The Royal Standard near the Perkins Road overpass experienced double-digit year-over-year sales gains in September and October, and managers expect a successful season.
“I don’t know that it will continue to be double digits,” said Emily Dykes, the boutique retailer’s vice president. “But I think this holiday season we will be up.”
Dykes added, “We’ve expanded our product lines. I think that’s a big factor in our increase this year.”
The store — which also has a second site farther south on Perkins Road and other retail locations in Lafayette and Gulf Shores, Alabama — sells everything from fashion accessories and jewelry to window treatments and luggage.
Nationwide, the National Retail Federation predicted last month this year’s holiday sales will increase by 4.1 percent to a total of $616.9 billion.
“We’re very pleased,” Dykes said of early November sales at The Royal Standard. She declined to predict the store’s specific sales growth for the remainder of the year.
The store is closed Thanksgiving, but will be open the day after on Black Friday.
“We will be offering some doorbusters,” Dykes said of Black Friday. “We will have some highly discounted items in limited quantities.”
Starting the first week of December, Dykes said, the store will be open extra hours on specific days — Thursday through Sunday.
At Victoria’s Toy Station on Government Street, part-owner Katie Shoriak said, “I definitely think we’ll have a 5 to 7 percent increase” in year-over-year sales for November and December.
“A late Thanksgiving is wonderful. LSU playing out of town is a tremendous help, too. If they win, that will make it even better.”
Victoria’s Toy Station will not be open Thanksgiving Day, Shoriak said. “That’s a day to be with family,” she said.
The toy store will be open Black Friday, but Shoriak said that day is not nearly as important for the store’s sales as Saturday.
“American Express Shop Small Saturday,” Shoriak said. “That’s been great for us.”
Impressive November and December sales this year would extend successes that have been building for several months, Shoriak said.
“We’ve had a great year, so far,” she said. “You know, we’ve been in business for 30 years. We have personalized service. We wrap beautifully. We try really hard to stand out, and that keeps our customers loyal.”
So, what are those customers buying?
“I think people are going back to basics,” Shoriak said. “Lots of puzzles and board games. Lots and lots of science stuff for boys. Telescopes, microscopes, science experiments.”
“‘Frozen,’” Shoriak said. “That’s been huge,” she said of the Oscar-winning animated movie and its spin-off toys, as well as girls’ dresses that are tied to “Frozen” characters Elsa and Anna. “We have a whole section of the store that is dedicated to ‘Frozen.’ ”
American Express says on its website, “When you shop small, it can lead to big things.” The credit card giant also says it has promoted Small Business Saturday nationwide since the run-up to the Thanksgiving weekend of 2010.
In Baton Rouge, at least one store owner reported a gangbusters rate of sales.
Batteries Plus Bulbs franchise holder Tim LeBlanc said second-year sales at his Siegen Lane store have “pretty much doubled our sales from the first year.”
“From what we’re seeing,” LeBlanc added on Nov. 12, “we’re probably 50 percent over our sales for November at this time last year.”
While LeBlanc sells only batteries and bulbs, he sells all the sizes and various kinds that power hearing aids and dump trucks or illuminate homes and yards.
“We sell batteries for any application,” LeBlanc said, adding that includes cameras, cellphones and cars.
Light bulbs range from incandescents to fluorescents to compact fluorescent lamps to light-emitting diodes, LeBlanc said.
“Some people might want to know we build custom battery packs,” LeBlanc said. He said that includes nickel-cadmium packs for tools, dog collars and cordless toothbrushes. It also includes nickel-metal packs for some vacuum cleaners.
Batteries Plus Bulbs won’t open for Thanksgiving Day, but from Black Friday through the end of the year, LeBlanc said, prices of all car and truck batteries will be reduced by $10.
“And we have several specials on various flashlights,” LeBlanc said.
New Orleans-based, high-end clothing retailer Perlis bought out Cohn Turner’s Baton Rouge store on Jefferson Highway last year.
Bobby Berthelot, Perlis’ general manager in Baton Rouge, said the store’s sales in November and December will at least double the 4.1 percent gain predicted by the National Retail Federation.
“This year, we are planning and running toward a 10 percent gain,” Berthelot said of the holiday sales season.
Thus far in 2014, Berthelot said, sales at the Baton Rouge store are 30 percent higher than those achieved last year under both Cohn Turner and Perlis.
“We sell a broad range of known names for boys’, men’s and women’s clothes,” Berthelot said. “We are extremely optimistic about the market here in Baton Rouge.
“The sweaters have to be special. People are looking for a sweater with a collar on it or intricate cabling … in fine merino or cashmere blends. They don’t want Plain Jane. They don’t balk at a price of $150 to $250. They want sweaters that are unique.”
Beyond sweaters, Berthelot said, women are buying such brands as Lily Pulitzer, Ecru and Magaschoni.
He said men are buying sportswear from Southern Tide and suits and other dress clothes from both Coppley and Canali.
Suits at Perlis start at about $500, Berthelot said. A Coppley, though, can cost as much as $900, and a Canali can carry a price tag of $1,800.
Normally open from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, Berthelot said, Perlis will remain open until 7 p.m. the last 10 regular days before Christmas.
Not open on Sundays during most of the year, Perlis will be open from noon until 5 p.m. on the last two Sundays prior to Christmas, Berthelot added.
Grocery stores are retailers, too.
Ernie A. Matherne, part-owner of the local Matherne’s supermarket chain, said business was sluggish for the first eight months of the year.
Like Dykes at The Royal Standard, though, Matherne said his stores’ business grew significantly in September and October.
“Since football season began, sales have picked up,” Matherne said, adding that for November and December, “We are shooting for a 10 percent increase.”
That target, however, is not a prediction, Matherne said.
“The early ending to (LSU) football home games this year, along with the stinging loss to Alabama … as well as the new competition will probably impact our sales negatively. Hopefully, we will be able to overcome these and have an increase.”
Competition has toughened “especially this year, since we have had Costco open and Super Wal-Mart open … within 2 miles of our Baton Rouge locations,” Matherne said. He also noted, “Trader Joe’s opened late last year.”
Matherne said his grocery business has remained competitive because his solid staff “helps build loyalty to the Matherne’s stores.”
He added, “Our perimeter departments such as meat, deli, produce and prepared meals, as well as our fine wine and craft beer departments, kind of separate us from the rest.”
Added Matherne, “We open on Thanksgiving Day so that our customers can pick up their holiday dinners. We close early in the afternoon so that our employees may enjoy Thanksgiving evening with their families.”
Matherne’s stores return to regular hours on Black Friday, and “fully cooked and prepared holiday dinners” will be available throughout the season, Matherne said.
As a grocer, though, Matherne said he does not share other retailers’ enthusiasm for Black Friday.
“Black Friday is one of the worst sales days of the year for us,” Matherne said. “Everybody is eating leftovers and shopping at the malls.”