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Grand Forks businesses say this year’s holiday shopping season has met expectations

Said one business manager: “It’s a lot better than last year.”

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Laura Conner, manager of Amy's Hallmark in south Grand Forks, says business has been good this holiday season.
Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald

Christmas comes early every year for Amy’s Hallmark in Grand Forks, when a new line of ornaments arrives at the store in July.

The ornaments are the store’s big draw, and as the holiday season approaches each year, the store traditionally becomes busier and busier. Thankfully, said manager Laura Conner, this season has been a traditional year for Grand Forks’ only Hallmark store.

“We’ve done really well,” she said. “The store has really been hopping pretty much straight for the past two months.”

Representatives from other retail stores in Greater Grand Forks said much the same thing: The holiday shopping season has kept them busy and, for many of them, it has met sales expectations.

Jasmine Koenig, assistant manager of the Sioux Shop at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, said besides sports apparel and souvenirs the shop sells holiday-themed apparel and ornaments. Her store’s top sellers this season have been men’s jerseys and hoodies.

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It’s convenient when the arena hosts games, because that’s when a lot of people will visit the store, but it has been busy even during non-game days. What’s different from years past is that while in-person shopping still beats online sales, the latter segment is growing.

Likewise, there is more foot traffic this season at both locations of Simply Boutique in East Grand Forks and Warren, Minnesota, according to owner Ashli Voecks. But online sales have grown at her business, too.

“It’s a lot better than last year,” she said of in-person sales a little more than a week before Christmas. “People are out and about doing their Christmas shopping. I think it's been a good Christmas season so far.”

The store sells women’s clothing, home decor and jewelry, among other items. Popular selling items at her stores this season have been “shackets,” a cross between shirt and jacket.

“We can’t seem to keep them in the store,” she said.

Last year, sales at the boutique saw an increase in online sales, which has remained steady this season. But Voecks said it is nice to see people back in the stores.

“It (online sales) has definitely picked up. We really relied on that last year,” she said. “That’s how we made it through COVID, selling online. It was a great way for customers to see what we had, and we did a lot of in-store pick-ups. … But it's really good this season, too.”

For the men on Santa’s list, his helpers have kept busy at Home of Economy, which has stores in Grand Forks, Grafton and Devils Lake, among other locations. Wade Pearson, company president, said he credits the weather.

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“We really need the winter weather,” he said. “The weather really drives our business, perhaps more than other businesses.”

He said deerskin gloves are a hot-selling item this time of year. Besides being useful beyond the holidays, gloves and hats also make good holiday gifts. Heavy coats and boots, among other winter accessories, also have been popular, as have larger items such as snow-throwers. Pearson said the store originally sold out of snow-throwers early in the season but it has since restocked the machines.

For many people, it’s not Christmas without books, and Ferguson Books and More, which sells used and new titles, has kept busier this holiday season than it did last year, according to store manager Sterling Reed. Signed books by both local authors and national celebrities have helped.

Among the signed books the store received this holiday season are those from former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Obama wrote his latest book with Bruce Springsteen, both of whom signed copies of “Renegades: Born in the USA.”

“All of them are signed,” Reed said.

The book “Dare to Make History” by Grand Forks’ famous siblings, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Monique Lamoureux-Morando, also has been a popular seller. Lately, the store’s bestselling book, however, is “Dakota Attitude” by Jim Puppe, which profiles North Dakotans from many backgrounds across the state. Reed said the store has had a tough time keeping the book in stock.

Ferguson’s online sales have remained consistent, he said, but many people like to come into the store to browse and handle the books in person.

The same with holiday cards, which nowadays are staples at many businesses. As manager of Amy’s Hallmark, Conner knows all about greeting cards. But, in a twist of fate, it’s the ornaments that are her store’s bread and butter.

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Hallmark, traditionally known for its cards, years ago explored new ways to attract customers – thus the ornaments, not only for Christmas but for other holidays and events throughout the year.

As such, Conner isn’t too worried about sales once people take down their Christmas trees and pack the Santa ornaments.

Next up: “Valentines,” which is the store’s second biggest sales event of the year, she said. “And then comes Mother’s Day.”

For every holiday, there is an ornament.

“You know,” she said, “there are the ebbs and flows of the season, but every time one season ends that has been a big one for us, there’s another one not too far away. We’re always getting ready for the next one.”

Related Topics: LOCAL BUSINESS
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