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Despite glitches, retailers had merry Christmas

By Joe Holloway
Dec. 26, 2012 at 10 p.m.

While Tuesday's precipitation led to a white Christmas in some areas of Harrison County, another recent weather event led to a lost shopping day for at least one area retailer.

The Marshall Mall lost power in the bad weather forcing the JC Penney department store to shut down just a few days before Christmas.

"Due to the weather on Thursday, we were closed one full day because we had power out in the mall," said Debbie Ellis, a service lead expert at JC Penney. "We had partial power, but the main power to our registers was completely down. There's nothing we could do. We couldn't even ring a sale because everything is computerized.

"The whole mall was down. We've had a lot of weather issues the past few days."

Fortunately, being closed on Thursday lead to a busier-than-normal Friday and last-minute shoppers made for a fairly active Christmas Eve as well.

"Friday we were really busy because people couldn't shop on Thursday," said Ms. Ellis. "We did pretty well one Christmas Eve. It started out kind of slow but we were up here about after we were supposed to be trying to get customers out so we did pretty well then."

Ellis said that the final figures hadn't been tallied yet, but that it was a good overall shopping season.

"We've done fair," she said. "In December, we started slacking off some but Christmas Eve was a good day and we did fair for the holidays."

The department store wasn't the only business experience some technological woes over the holidays. Employees at The Mercantile, which sells rustic furniture and other items, went in to work on Sunday to find the store's server was down.

Chris Meyers, who works at The Mercantile, said she didn't know what caused the server to go down, but that the store had been operating without computers since Sunday, keeping track of sales with old-fashioned pen and paper.

"Everything we've done we've had to write it out, calculate it, like we had to years and years ago," she said. "We couldn't shut down because we had last minute people coming in to pick up their Christmas stuff, but now we know how much we've become dependant on computers."

Meyers said the only real problem was that there was no way for the employees in the store to know what merchandise was available in the store's warehouse, which is off site.

"The only thing was we didn't know what we had in our warehouse because our warehouse isn't here so we've been relying a lot on our warehouse manager," she said, adding that he had to be called of his own Christmas vacation to help out. "He's had to be at our beck and call.

"It's been a little crazy."

Despite the technological difficulties, Ms. Meyers said holiday business had been good.

"It's been OK," she said. "We sell furniture and lots and lots of knick knacks in here. We've had the men last minute shoppers buying jewelry and such. That's been cool.

"We always have to make sure we have our jewelry counter stocks and always our knickknacks because it's always the last minute stocking stuffers or whatever or the last minute person coming from out of town."

She said that sales the day after Christmas had even been a bit surprising.

"People were in here buying tables and stuff for thanksgiving, but now people are in here buying bedroom groups. They've made it through Christmas so now, whatever they have leftover, they can maybe spend on themselves a little," she said. "We didn't expect the people that we had come in today. I guess maybe that means the economy isn't as bad. Hopefully."

Debbie Parker, owner of Deborah's Boutique, didn't say she'd experienced any technological or power troubles, but she did say that this holiday season had been one of her store's most successful ever.

"It has been very, very good," she said. "It's probably been the best Christmas season we've had in 12 years."

Part of that, she indicated, was a good number of shoppers on Christmas Eve.

"We had a huge Christmas Eve crowd," she said. "I had some ladies doing last minute stuff too, but mostly it was last minute guys coming in to buy presents. I have no doubt that this Christmas Eve was the best Christmas Eve I've had since I've been in business and that's been 14 years."

She said there could be a couple of reasons for the high number of shoppers.

"I'm sure my location had something to do with it," she said in her store right on the corner of Highway 80 and N. Washington Ave. "And we have a new vendor we haven't had before in Vera Bradley and that made a huge difference as well. It was both of those for us."



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