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Petersburg retailers are busy getting in the Christmas spirit


With the holidays upon Petersburg and Black Friday in the rearview mirror, retailers are looking for ways to help keep shoppers local and combat online shopping.

Heidi Lee of Lee’s Clothing says the holiday season really gets jumpstarted with the lighting of downtown. Lee says the store has spearheaded the Christmas tree lighting and parade for years because it helps encourage residents to get in the holiday spirit and start visiting downtown stores, in addition to making downtown look good and festive.

Lee’s Clothing makes a concerted effort to keep the needs and tastes of local customers in mind when they go to markets throughout the year to purchase items to stock the store. They local retail staple keeps a sharp eye on their prices to keep them in line with competitors, including online stores, according to Lee.

The clothing store also makes sure to be involved with community events throughout the year, not just the last months of it. Lee’s Clothing sells tickets for fundraising events and employees also make a major effort to volunteer whenever they get a chance, including the Beat the Odds Race and the Norwegian Dancers.

However, when December rolls around they get downright active with Christmas themed annual events, including Women’s Night Out and Julebukking. Women’s Night Out, which will be held on Dec. 4 this year, is dedicated to helping both men and women make the holidays special.

“The ladies write down what they hope to get for Christmas, and then the men hopefully come down and buy them,” Lee says laughing.

Women that write down their desired gifts also get entered in give-aways. Then the guys come to the store on Men’s Night Out that will take place right before Christmas on Dec. 18, and Lee’s puts out a nice spread of local favorites like smoked salmon and pickled herring. And if the local delicacies aren’t enough, the guys get personal attention to help them make their decisions.

“We help with personal shopping, and we really help people figure out what they would want to get each other,” Lee says. “We walk around the store with them, we know who they’re shopping for and it makes it easier to buy the right items.”

Lee’s Clothing also has employees on hand ready to gift wrap purchases, eliminating that task for men as well.

Julebukking, a Scandinavian tradition, takes place days before or on Christmas Eve. The event is a way for local businesses to offer a diverse assortment of foods and treats as a thank you to Petersburg residents for shopping locally.

“It’s also a chance to visit and catch up, and so it’s a real bringing together of the community,” Lee says. “These are all things that you don’t do when you just sit at a computer and order online. We want to thank the community for all the support we get all year.”

Hammer and Wikan hardware relies heavily on their ability to work on promotions and have a strong advertising presence in Petersburg. General manager John Mason says advertising can be tricky because there needs to have a measurable positive benefit, which can sometimes be hard to find.

“Given the nature of our business, advertising is an integral part of our sales structure,” Mason says. “It’s really run hot and cold, we try some things and we see what works, and then we try some more things.”

The store had Black Friday deals, and a couple weeks back hosted their annual Ladies Night, which is a night solely for women customers to score deals. Clothing and other merchandise is offered at a discounted rate.

“It’s basically ladies only,” Mason says. “We bring in special merchandise that’s not available on the floor, except for Ladies Night.”

The hardware store also welcomes Salvation Army bell ringers to set up shop in front of the store to put customers in the Christmas spirit and raise money for the charitable organization. Shoppers at the grocery store will also find red kettles at each register collecting more donations.

Skate of Gear owner, Lisa Nilsen is busy getting a head start on the holiday events by hosting Janine Gibbon’s Trunk Show this Thursday night. The event offers customers the opportunity to meet and greet the artist, in addition to having appetizers and shopping specials. Skate of Gear will also be actively participating in Women’s Night Out and Julebukking.

Nilsen says she is working on building an online presence for her store, but so far the sales history is sporadic and they average around one online sale a week. Nilsen is hoping for future success with the cyber venture, but right now it’s more about testing the waters and getting the Skate of Gear brand to new audiences, she says.

“It’s tricky to have an online presence, I would say it sometimes detracts from what I am able to do on the floor,” Nilsen says. “But it feels important to me, especially with the state of our local economy right now. Anything extra I can do will be a bonus to the shop.”

Skate of Gear promotions and special sales can be found posted regularly on Facebook or the old school sandwich board on the sidewalk outside the store.

“You hope that people locally will come downtown, but if things are tight they are going to be looking for the best deals possible,” she says.

For Nilsen, Skate of Gear is a family-owned business and their family chose to close on Friday, joining the #OPTOUTSIDE Movement, which meant no Black Friday deals or sales. Nilsen says regardless of lost sales, time with family took priority.

“We knew, there was no doubt that we would lose sales,” she says. “But we decided this year that we will continue doing it and take those couple of days to do something as a family.”


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