Holiday Season Jolly for Some, Bah Humbug for Others

Urbana store owner Nick Sun works the cash register in his well-stocked liquor store.

While nationally retailers are predicting a slight increase in sales this holiday season, it has proved to be a mixed bag for local store owners.

Nick Sun, owner of the Urbana Liquor Store said his sales are down 20 percent, making this one of the most difficult of his four years at his Urbana location. He blames the decrease in sales on the economy, which has left many of his customers without a job or underemployed.

“The customers that I have talked to have had their hours cut back or lost their business or had to find another job,” Sun said. “I have customers who are still buying drinks but switched from Jim Beam to Kentucky Gentleman and things like that.”

Sun said he is also concerned that his rent is too high. He pays $44 per square foot in his location, which equates to $8,000 per month for his store. Sun said he is limited in his window display, which makes it difficult for him to advertise his specials.

Tough times have forced Sun to sell his Clarksburg home and move in with his mother-in-law.

“I want to get out of Urbana. I don’t want to do any more business here,” he said.

Just next door, Willie Chin, owner of CK Jewelers, said he is also seeing a 20 percent drop in sales from this year compared to last year.

“The number one big factor is the economy,” Chin said, adding that most of the holiday sales are made during the last two weeks before Christmas.

According to the National Retail Federation, retailers across the country are predicting a 3.3 percent increase in sales over last year’s numbers. November retail industry sales (which exclude automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) increased 0.8 percent seasonally adjusted over October and 6.8 percent unadjusted over last year, the NRF reported.

“The start to the holiday season has surpassed all expectations,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “While employment data is still a concern, we are starting to see improvement in other economic indicators that support an increase to our forecast. In order to sustain this momentum for retailers and the U.S. economy, there must be a renewed focus on jobs as we enter the new year.”

Chin picked his Urbana store location about three-and-a-half years ago because of the potential development in the area.

“This is a great area,” he said. Chin used to have a store in the Lakeforest Mall in Gaithersburg. Chin said he is anxious for the final build out of the commercial area in Urbana.

Kimko Realty, developers of the commercial property, did not return calls for comment on the build-out and rental rates for commercial properties here.

At City Magnolia Day Spa off Fingerboard Road in Urbana, sales are up. The family-owned spa has operated out of Urbana for a little more than three years, and Assistant Manager Lindsey Pangburn said business has been good.

“This is our busy time of the year selling gift cards, and we have new featured facials,” she said.

Most business comes from referrals; however, Pangburn said clients make their way to the Urbana spa from as fare away as West Virginia.

“I look around at the businesses around us, and everybody is growing,” she said.

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