Merchants are cautiously optimistic

Shopping picks up in DM Village

Del Mar merchants and restaurants are saying bah humbug to the doom and gloom predicted for this holiday shopping season. While they said they know the recession will have an impact, they are remaining optimistic.

"People are more cautious, but they still give gifts," said Sean Loghman, owner of jewelry store Loghman & Company. "These gifts make the giver and receiver feel good; it's time we started feeling good again."

While the season started off slow, things are beginning to pick up Loghman and others said, and they attribute that to the nice weather and several Village-wide promotions.

For example, the restaurant vouchers are huge hit, said Jen Grove, executive director of the Del Mar Village Association.

For every $75 spent cumulatively in Village stores, shoppers can receive a $15 coupon to spend at participating Village restaurants through March. The association ran out of vouchers and had to print more for the first time in the history of the program.

Free parking

Merchants also applauded the city for holding free parking days - the meters go off the clock on Dec. 20, 24, 25 and Jan. 1.

"The 'free parking days' bring back the friendliness of Del Mar as well as the excitement, as it were, of 'playing hooky' from fines and rushing to move cars," wrote Carol Goodell, owner of Frustrated Cowboy, in a thank you e-mail to Grove. "It's a very thoughtful and successful gesture, and is fun!"

The Holiday Wonderland complete with children's crafts and carriage rides on Dec. 6 and 7 was also a success, providing shops exposure to new customers who may not have purchased gifts during the weekend, but plan to return sans children or spouse, Grove said.

Shop local

The key to success is encouraging shoppers to stay local when looking for items on their holiday gift lists.

"We all gain if the dollars spent at Barnes & Noble go back to Earthsong (book store)," Grove said.

Loghman agreed, adding it's important for the city to take an active role in this campaign.

"If the city helps us do business, the more business we do, the more taxes we pay, which helps everybody out," he said.

Staying the course

While some stores are advertising sales, others said they are not changing their game plan mid-way through December, partly because they see no need.

"Things have been quite steady, even a little busier than normal," said John Wingate, owner of En Fuego restaurant. "We expect to finish the season strong."

   
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