There seems to be no shortage of reasons for pessimism as the Christmas shopping season gets into full swing, but good old yankee ingenuity still promises to save the day.
As American consumers stand poised to plunge over a 'fiscal cliff,' they have good reason to remain conservative in their Christmas spending. Congress appears no be no closer to getting past the ideological divide and partisan politics that have all but stalled the economy during this season of giving. Consumers would know how much they can afford to spend on Christmas this year if their lawmakers would just compromise, and every day we hesitate to spend is another day of revenue lost. This year, the Grinch who stole Christmas may just be an elected representative; as long as the possibility of the $2,000 to $4,000 tax increase per household looms, consumers are less likely to spend during this traditionally busy time of the year for retailers.
In spite of the understandable hesitation to spend, local retailers who are willing to 'think outside the box' are demonstrating they still have some control over their destiny this Christmas season.
Now in its third year, Holiday Mart attracted about the same number of vendors this year as it did last, and there seemed to be about the same volume of customer traffic when the annual event was held last Saturday in the Brookfield H.S. Gymnasium.
Organized by the Brookfield Area Chamber of Commerce as a way of giving local consumers a one-stop approach to Christmas shopping, Holiday Mart rents table spaces in the Brookfield H.S. Gymnasium for $25 each. Non-profits were charged $15 each to rent a table for the four-hour event.
Holiday Mart grew so much in popularity from the first year it was offered that the event was moved out of the R-3 Middle School Gym into the High School Gymnasium where there is more space. The Chamber had high hopes and its optimism paid off. Last year, the second year Holiday Mart was offered, the extra space in the R-3 H.S. Gymnasium was filled to capacity with vendors and shoppers. And while the event didn't seem to lose much ground this year, neither did it gain any.
Paul Frey, who was appointed Brookfield Chamber Director six months ago, has approached the challenges associated with that position with almost unbounded energy and enthusiasm. "We had about 70 vendors for this year's Holiday Mart, about the same number as last year," observes Frey. "Concessions were down, but I think that's because people were spending more on gifts they found next door in the gym. I talked to about 25 vendors and most indicated they did well."
As I made the rounds Saturday, stopping at each table to visit with local retailers and encouraging them to provide feedback, I was impressed by the can-do spirit of the vendors. I only regret that I didn't receive as many call-backs from Saturday's vendors as I had hoped for. However, the few I received were instructive.