Main Street sales up after hunting season and holiday kickoff

By: 
DEB HILL
Managing Editor

Shoppers take advantage of businesses open late during the Christmas Stroll. Businesses reported good sales during the event.

Photo courtesy of  Chris Cooler

 

Main Street merchants report business is up, a good signal any time of year, but especially here at the close of hunting season and the start of holiday shopping. 

Hunting season saw average to slightly above average sales for local merchants and those offering hunter services, such as meat packaging.

“We were a little busier this year than last, up a little,” said John Tognetti, owner of The Sport Center. “We saw a mix of locals and out-of-state hunters, and sold a lot of ammo and accessories.”

Tognetti said the hunters he spoke with reported a success rate about normal in the regular season, and some will continue to hunt in the upcoming elk shoulder season.

“The shoulder season definitely keeps people out in the field,” Tognetti said. “It’s not a huge deal, like opening day of regular season is, but it does keep some hunters out there.”

When hunters are out and about, Tognetti’s sales improve, he said.

Scott Fox, gun counter clerk at Don’s Store, agreed seasonal sales were just above average.

“There was no big increase or decrease in the numbers overall,” he said. “Our gun sales were a little above average and we about sold out of ammo. We had a good mix of local and out-of-the-area hunters coming in.”

While hunting equipment sales may have been up slightly, hunter success might not have been quite as good as most years.

“It’s been average to a slightly below average,” said Donita Larson, co-owner of Judith Mountain Meats. “By the end of the year we will be pretty close to average, but we were just talking about how it seems like the number of out-of-state hunters was down. Even the game wardens say it was down.”

Larson said she wasn’t sure what led to the lower success rate for hunters but thought it might be related to the weather.

“We had kind of a crazy year with the drought and then the heat in the early fall,” she explained. “Maybe that has something to do with it.”

 

Locals pack Main Street for holiday Stroll

The Christmas Stroll event kicks off the holiday sales season for many downtown merchants. Less wintry weather this year may be the reason for the increased turnout, or perhaps it was the extras both the Chamber and several merchants added to entice people to visit Main Street.

“It went great,” said Mary Baumstark, director of the Lewistown Art Center. “We had twice as many people enter the cookie contest as last year. We had the Dance Syndicate kids here – many costumed nutcracker helpers. We had Haeli Allen singing in the gallery.”

All of this created a festive atmosphere which, perhaps, led to the astronomical turnout: over 950 kids participated in this year’s snowball drop off the Art Center roof.

“I had only 50 chocolate bars left at the end of the night,” Baumstark said. As for sales, she reported consistent purchasing throughout the day.

Other merchants agree the night was a success.

“It was very good; we were very busy,” said James Phelps, manager of True Value. “The Melissa and Doug brand of toys is doing very well. We also sold some larger items, such as chain saws.”

Rhonda Kepner, clerk at Country Junction, said this year’s Stroll was “super good.”

“We were packed,” she said.

Diane Gehlen, owner of The Connection, said she had wondered whether people would come into the stores with as mild as the weather was.

“We had a great turnout, though,” she said. “We had Infinity and Quazar [Thomson] playing Christmas music, and the community really turned out. There were people all over in the street. Many were shopping local -- that’s what we like to see.”

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