Maui retailers are optimistic about holiday season sales, with stores saying they already are seeing an "uptick" in business this month and feeling that customers are more confident about spending.
"I think sales are going to be up this season," said local retailer Lisa Payne, who owns three shops, two in Lahaina and the other in Makawao. "We have started off very strong at the first part of this year."
"With the election being over, I think people are feeling a little more confident in their spending. I think it's going to be a good holiday," said Payne, who runs apparel, gifts and furnishing stores Hale Zen in Lahaina and Designing Wahine Emporium in Makawao. She also has a new furniture warehouse showroom in Lahaina.
My Sister’s Closet Manager Leziel Arcala prepares price tags for the store’s Black Friday sale. Arcala and Assistant Manager Emily Cantorna have been setting up for the sale since Saturday. The store will be opening the space next door, which will hold select items for $5 to $25 each. It will be the first time they open the space for shopping.
The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo
At My Sister's Closet Hawaii, a clothing store for women and teens, owner Nikki Nguyen said she has started "to see a little uptick" this month in customer traffic and business at her store in the Maui Mall.
"We are noticing people are shopping in the stores more often. We are hoping it continues, and it continues into the next couple of weeks," she said.
The Maui retailers have a reason to be optimistic. The National Retail Federation said that though there still may be political and fiscal uncertainties, it believes that there is improvement in consumer confidence. The federation predicts that holiday sales will increase 4.1 percent to $586.1 billion this year.
NRF's holiday forecast is higher than the 10-year average annual holiday sales increase of 3.5 percent. Holiday sales in 2011 grew 5.6 percent from the previous year.
Some national retailers were trying to scoop up sales before Thanksgiving. American Eagle, a national teen-to-young-adult clothing retailer with a store at Queen Ka'ahumanu Center, was offering 40 percent off items at its stores Wednesday.
On Thanksgiving, retailers such as Kmart will be open as they have for years. Walmart will be open with "Black Friday" specials beginning at 8 tonight, workers said this week. Sears at Queen Ka'ahumanu Center also will open at 8 tonight, with Macy's and nearly a dozen other stores at the shopping center opening at midnight, a mall official said.
For Maui Extreme Toys owner Maron Aoki, he's hoping for the best now that he has moved from the Maui Mall to Queen Ka'ahumanu Center this year. The larger mall has more foot traffic, but the seller of unique toys said that he is not doing as well at the Ka'ahumanu mall. He said that he is unable to sell some types of merchandise that he did at Maui Mall and that there is a lot more competition.
He claims that other retailers are mimicking the types of items he has in his store.
On the plus side, Aoki did take note of the largely nonexistent foot traffic at the Maui Mall on Black Friday - the day after Thanksgiving when retailers hope sales will put them in the "black." There should be more customers at his new home this Black Friday. He believes that those customers will probably shop at the larger retailers before hitting his toy store that is inside his sister's store, Party Paradise, at the Sears end of the mall.
Aoki hopes that his unique Japan anime toys along with his staples, such as milk covers, marbles and yo-yos, will attract customers. He's offering a special to entice customers Friday. Shoppers can get a Mario backpack for $5 if they spend at least $25. If customers spend $50, they can get the backpack for free, he said.
Nguyen has specials this week as well. She has leased vacant storefront space next to her store at the Maui Mall to do a "door buster deal sale" Friday to Sunday. She said she is doing $5, $15 and $20 types of deals on bags, shoes and accessories.
"We are marking it down," she said, adding that the store has a lot of inventory it wants to move to bring in new things.
On Wednesday, workers were busy labeling clothes and setting up the vacant space. This weekend, there will be specials in her regular store as well, and she will run her 12 days of Christmas promotion from Dec. 7 to18, where there will be a special every day. Nguyen said this will be her third year of running her 12 days of Christmas special. Last year, her sales during that 12-day promotion were up almost 50 percent from the first year she rolled out the concept.
"Hopefully, we can see another 50 percent increase in our promotion this year," she said.
In Makawao and Lahaina, Payne sees that visitors, especially those from Canada, are opening up their wallets.
"We are seeing a big influx of Canadian shoppers," she said.
Payne believes that since Canada's economy "is a bit more stable and stronger than ours, they are spending like I've never seen them spend before."
She also believes that Mainland travelers still think that Hawaii is a good place to be and will come to the islands rather than go to a foreign country.
"It's really going to be a positive impact on our economy here," she said.
Payne's customer base is made up of a mix of locals, visitors and part-time Maui residents, or "snowbirds," who come here during the winter.
Payne also gives out kamaaina discounts.
She said last year's holiday sales were "good" and were probably 5 percent higher than the year before.
"I think it's going to be a stronger holiday season than last year," she said.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.