Santa appears to have been especially good to Maui retailers this year, with several local stores reporting strong holiday sales despite national reports to the contrary.
"We definitely did better than last year," said Lesley Cummings, store manager for Maui Thing, a clothing and accessory boutique in Wailuku.
"It was a small bump, but we did do better, and we got a lot of support from a lot of people who've never been in here, which is nice and always a good gauge," she said.
Brysen Bugtong, 5, helps his dad, Joel, load his new bike into the family van Wednesday afternoon outside Walmart in Kahului. Mom Lora Corpuz said that the Kahului family arrived looking for special prices on toys and ended up with a bike. She is holding daughter L.J. Bugtong, 1. Some Maui stores reported strong sales this holiday season.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Cummings and other local retailers said the longer-than-usual gap between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year - almost five weeks - created a slowdown in between busy periods.
"Black Friday was really good, then traffic fizzled out in the beginning of December," Cummings said. "But as Christmas approached, we started getting a lot busier, with procrastinators and last-minute shoppers."
She said Saturday was the shop's busiest shopping day. This year, jewelry items and kids and baby T-shirts were popular gift items, she said, as well as a women's tee featured in a MauiTime article.
Last year, actual holiday sales nationwide - retail sales in November and December - grew 5.6 percent, according to the National Retail Federation.
Dane Han, who owns two stores at the Queen Ka'ahumanu Center with his wife, Kerry, said he's seen an uptick in business the past week at their stores Findz and Ollie Pop.
"We haven't finished totaling our figures yet, we're waiting until the end of the month, but this last week has been very strong," Han said. "Because of the way the Thanksgiving holiday fell, it really changed people's shopping patterns this year. People got a later start because they figured they had more time, and so toward the end, it got really fast and ferocious."
He said on Christmas Eve, with the mall staying open until 6, the stores were "very busy with a lot of last-minute shoppers."
Ollie Pop, which carries toys for children and adults, was offering after-Christmas discounts of between 30 to 50 percent off for selected items, which Han said was continuing to attract customers.
"The mall is busy today. It's been brisk," he said Wednesday, the day after Christmas. "I think a lot of people are walking around with Christmas money. Thankfully, it hasn't been heavy on the exchanges, but instead more people shopping for themselves."
He said books and discovery toys were popular sells at Ollie Pop this year, along with new styles of jewelry at Findz.
Anecdotal examples from employees at other Maui retailers including Maui Tropix Surf Co. and My Sister's Closet in the Maui Mall also indicated a busy holiday season.
At Maui Tropix stores, popular for Maui Built logo wear, holiday sales were "up a lot more than last year" across the island, according to a store manager who declined to provide her name. She added that Christmas is the company's busiest time of year.
Nationally, holiday sales fell short of retail forecasts for the season.
Sales of electronics, clothing, jewelry and home goods in the two months before Christmas increased just 0.7 percent over last year, according to MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse report.
The National Retail Federation had forecast a 4.1 percent boost in holiday sales this year, for about $586 billion in revenues.
MasterCard Advisors, an information service that tracks retail sales across all payment methods, said that in 2011, the final 10 days before Christmas generated about $147 billion in retail sales volume, making up nearly 24 percent of the holiday shopping season.
It also said that the final week of December typically accounts for 15 percent of the month's sales for retailers, making the next five days critical for many stores.
* Nanea Kalani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.