'New’ mall boosts holiday sales in Alberni

Store owner Jennifer Norn opens the door to the day after Boxing Day sales at Jowsey
Store owner Jennifer Norn opens the door to the day after Boxing Day sales at Jowsey's in Alberni.
— image credit: WAWMEESH G. HAMILTON/Alberni Valley News

A new shopping district helped keep customers in town during a busy Christmas retail season, Home Hardware owner Jan Lavertu said.

Home Hardware showed a sharp increase in business during the holiday season but the factor must be taken in context, Lavertu said.

“We’re at a new location and are offering some new products. Our sales are up substantially but it’s not really a true comparison to last year,” Lavertu said.

The Alberni Mall area, where Home Hardware moved last month, is becoming a retail hub that benefits both store owners and customers, Lavertu said.

“It gives people more choices and incentive to stay in town and shop instead of going out of town,” he said. “We want to give shoppers a good selection of products at a good price and it’s convenient for them to return things here at home.”

Christmas sales account for approximately 10 per cent of Home Hardware’s business, Lavertu said. “We’re a bit different than other businesses that rely on Christmas sales. Our upswing is in the spring,” he said.

The store usually takes on extra staff over the holidays but already hired more staff to accommodate the  move into the larger space.

Lavertu’s store sold out of specialty lights this holiday and coffee makers were one of the more popular items that sold like hotcakes, he said.

Down Johnston Road at Jowseys approximately 50 people braved the elements by camping outside the store’s doors in advance of the post Christmas sale.

Store owner Jennifer Norn and two staff members served pizza to the crowd of diehards a half hour before the sale.

Christmas accounts for approximately 10 per cent of the store’s yearly take, and Norn estimates that sales are up by $1,200 over last year.

The store’s business is steady throughout the year but Norn said that people start planning for Christmas early, and that she starts to see an upswing in business from September through January.

Jowsey’s completely sold out of one-only items over the holidays, and sold it out of the three sets of a sofa sectional it displayed in its window. “That was just nuts,” Norn said.

The store was impacted positively by online sales, Norn said. “People can order right from our website. We get a lot of business from Banfield, Tofino, Ucluelet, and from Ahousaht particularly,” she said.

The store does lose business to out of town shopping, but no more so than over the past 40 years, Norn said. “We hold our own. We’ll just keep weathering that one,” she said.

Are you a small business owner? We’d like to hear from you how your Christmas season went and whether you think business is on the upswing here in Port Alberni. Contact reporter Wawmeesh Hamilton at 250-723-6399 and let him know.

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