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Holiday spending up this year: Chamber
More activity seen this year, including big ticket recreation sales

Thandiwe Vela
Northern News Services
Published Friday, December 23, 2011

Yellowknife retailers say they are seeing strong sales this holiday season.

Happy Holidays from NNSL

Snowmobiles, such as the Polaris model pictured here at Force One, have been selling strongly this holiday season, Yellowknife retailers say. Winter enthusiasm has been more apparent with shoppers this year, Polar Tech Recreation owner Gord Olson said. - Thandiwe Vela/NNSL photo

Observations by the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce have indicated that noticeable holiday spending began as early as Thanksgiving in the city, with pushes in retail activity in November, and again in the run-up to Christmas weekend.

"General holiday spending started a little earlier this year," chamber executive director Tim Doyle said, while walking through Centre Square Mall on Tuesday afternoon. "I just left a store that just had about eight people walk in at the same time, so I'd say for this mall that's pretty good."

The fact that Christmas Day falls on a Sunday this year might also boost retail sales, Doyle added, with the final day to make purchases, Christmas Eve day, landing on a Saturday.

"I think you're going to see a bit of a boom in retail primarily because Saturday is a natural shopping day in the retail world," Doyle said.

This past week, the amount of people walking around downtown shops and eating in restaurants was also encouraging, Doyle said.

"I'm just looking through my own two eyes here and it seems very positive," he said. "The number of people that were in Latitudes restaurant and Main Street Donair when I was coming through here - it's good for the restaurants."

Doyle said he also noticed some activity around the small shops in Old Town, and expects it has been a "fairly decent" spending year for Christmas.

"I guess we won't know until January when the official numbers come out but it seems this week that there's some real activity down here."

Members of the chamber of commerce, which includes more than 400 Yellowknife businesses, have said they have been busy all week and are anticipating more, Doyle said.

One particular segment seeing strong sales is winter recreation, with snowmobiling season, which generally begins in November in Yellowknife, now in full swing, Polar Tech Recreation owner and operator Gord Olson said. He added that not only sales, but winter enthusiasm, has been more apparent this year.

"We haven't seen this type of enthusiasm since 08/09," Olson said. "It's not just the sales, it's the enthusiasm - the whole spirit of Christmas just seems to be a little bit more apparent right now. What I've seen with the enthusiasm is 'oh winter's here, let's get a snow machine and maybe enjoy the winter,' instead of sitting around waiting for that sky to fall out from the recession."

The recreation sector typically suffers the most in difficult economic times, Yellowknife Chrysler general manager Myles Longphee said, but snowmobile sales at the dealership have been double so far this season.

At Force One, snowmobiles have been selling straight from the showroom.

"I think we're having a strong season," general manager Jason Clarke said, listing trail utility machines such as the Polaris 550 fan-cooled touring snowmobile, as the most popular this season.

Cross sport model Renegade E-Tec Ski-Doo has been the top snow machine seller at Polar Tech.

"The fact that bigger ticket items are being sold that does not surprise me in the least to hear that," Doyle said. "It's good for the economy up here."

The holiday season sales bode well for business in 2012, industry says.

"It's fairly early, but I think so far we're going to have a good year," Clarke said.

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