Holiday Shopping Season Leaves Bay Business Owners Optimistic

Retailers across the country are now starting to take stock of this year's holiday shopping season. In many cases, sales this time of year account for as much as 50 percent of a business's yearly profits.

Perhaps nowhere is that more true than in storm ravaged communities like Bay St. Louis. To the surprise of many longtime shop owners in town, Christmas business was very good.

"We've been so blessed with the local people and the volunteers coming in and supporting all of Old Town and we really appreciate it," downtown business owner Jenise McCardell said.

McCardell runs Clay Creations, a place where you can have a home or building immortalized in clay. She says many customers purchased Katrina related items like bird feeders made of storm debris or a "before and after" picture book.

"I believe people wanted to give good and happy memories of how it was and how it will be again."

Shop owner Jay MacAniff said she had a great Christmas season. MacAniff owns A-OK, a furniture, gift and novelty shop. Hurricane Katrina forced him to relocate his business from downtown to Highway 90.

"I was excited to open the shop back up the day before Thanksgiving, and it was very busy all the way up through Christmas Eve. I sold everything from stocking stuffers, little wind up toys, all the way up to dining room tables at $1500," MacAniff said.

MacAniff believes one of the reasons his business faired so well this holiday season is because there's less competition. Many businesses were washed away by Katrina and have not re-opened.

Elise Haas also relocated her downtown gift shop, Just Du-It to Highway 90.

"The holiday season was wonderful compared to October and the pervious months," Haas said.

"We were much busier downtown, but we were dealing with a whole different clientele. We had mainly tourists, and now we have the locals. And the locals seem to realize that if they want their town back and the economy to get moving, that they need to support the businesses that have opened. And they've come through for us," Haas said.

"We're looking forward to the New Year and seeing Old Town getting better and better," McCardell said.

By Al Showers