Overall spending in Houston has been okay. Local residents have been doing their part to shop local and support local business. (Angelique Houlihan photo/Houston Today)

Overall spending in Houston has been okay. Local residents have been doing their part to shop local and support local business. (Angelique Houlihan photo/Houston Today)

Residents shopping locally to support business

Houston merchants are reporting steady activity this Christmas season with local residents shopping locally to support the business community not only now but since spring when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“For us it’s socks,” said Miake Elliott of Pawesome Adventure. “We had no idea people in Houston would buy this many socks.”

The store has sold an estimated 500 pairs of brightly-coloured socks in the past 12 months, 56 pairs in one week alone.

Elliott said the socks make great additional Christmas gifts for family members and friends.

“We’ve had a lot of local support this year,” Elliott added of her business activity. “Definitely has helped us this year. We’ve made some changes and that’s made a difference in our sales.”

And customers have responded to the store raising money for food and other items for the Northwest Animal Shelter in Smithers.

The pandemic did strain the ability of the store to bring in new products with some suppliers unable to respond in full.

Kirk Vandenbrink from Countrywide Sports also reported challenges with supply chains when trying to bring in cross country skis as an added product line.

“It wasn’t just us. Other stores also had the same problem in trying to jump in,” he said.

That’s not unusual with businesses across the country indicating there’s been an increase in the demand for outdoor sporting equipment. People are looking to outdoor sports to replace indoor activities which have been constrained because of pandemic safety orders and protocol.

Countrywide does carry snowshoes and Vandebrink said sales of that kind of equipment as increased.

“Overall, we’re pretty much the same with sales as we were last Christmas,” he added.

Countrywide Printing and Stationery’s Kevin Alles says his sales this season reflect more people staying at home because of the pandemic.

Best sellers in his store are puzzles and books.

“That’s what we’re seeing, a return to old school activities,” Alles said.

And as with other stores, he’s also had to deal with strained supply chains in bringing in products.

“For puzzles, it’s ones with a Christmas theme. It’s been an uphill battle trying to get those,” said Alles.

“Despite the restrictions we’re doing pretty well. It’s been a good December. There’s a good feeling around and that’s been good to see,” he added.

Mike Tran from Mike’s Audio says his store is experiencing a slight dip in sales from previous years.

And as with other merchants, he says it’s been very hard to get stock to meet customer requests as more people look for inside entertainment.

“TVs, TV stands, games. They’ve been hard to get. We can get it, but it’s been hard,” he said.

Whereas full orders would come in before from suppliers, one part of an order will now arrive and a few days later the rest of the order will show up.

Tran also speaks of the mixed message going out to residents — on the one hand public officials are urging people to stay home while on the other hand, there’s been a call to buy from local stores.

“Black Friday. Yet people were told to stay at home. We didn’t have a lot of customers,” he said.

Bulkley Valley Home Centre’s Darrin Super reports a fairly steady season with no dramatic change from past Decembers.

“If anything, business is down just a bit,” he said.

But the home centre did see a large increase in the demand for material for home renovations in the spring when the mill was closed and with people staying home.

“What we did see also in the spring was people building greenhouses. And with that then we had a large demand for seeds and then, in the fall, because of that a large demand for canning jars. We had a pallet of canning jars out, six feet high, and that product was gone in less than a week,” he said.

The home centre has upped its order for seeds for the next planting season.