Shorter holiday shopping season not a bust for SF retailers 

click to enlarge Union Square
  • Cindy Chew/2007 S.F. Examiner file photo
  • Union Square merchants report an increase in activity even though the holiday season was shortened by a late Thanksgiving this year.
The six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this holiday shopping season — the shortest in more than a decade — has some San Francisco retailers stressed, but not about a dip in business.

Mid-afternoon Thursday, Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop at the Palace Hotel was bustling with customers, and that’s how it’s been from the moment the doors opened for the past several weeks, said store supervisor Freddie Arroz.

“It’s much busier than last year because everyone is in a rush to grab some gifts,” he said. “It’s a good thing because we’re also selling more, even online. The only problem is, sometimes we’re out of stock and short-staffed, and in a rush preparing gift items.”

Around Union Square, The City’s main shopping area, streets and garages have been packed and some retailers relay they are “doing quite well this season,” said Karin Flood, executive director of the Union Square Business Improvement District.

Sensors on a handful of buildings on Powell, Geary and Stockton streets that count people as they walk by logged a 3 percent increase in people this Black Friday weekend compared to last year. The following weekend showed a 5.5 percent increase from last year, and the weekend after, a 15 percent increase.

“So it seems as we’re getting closer [to Christmas], the number is exponentially going up with the compressed shopping season,” said Flood, acknowledging that not everyone may be there to shop and some people could be counted more than once.

Macy’s Union Square location, which offered two days of round-the-clock shopping starting the Friday before Christmas Day for the first time last year, is extending to four days this year from 7 a.m. today to Christmas Eve at 6 p.m.

The 107 nonstop business hours this year are not specifically a result of the shorter shopping season, said Macy’s spokeswoman Megan Pardo, but, “We’re looking to help customers as much as they need it, so we’re staying open longer.”

Under One Roof, a gift store at Crocker Galleria that donates all its proceeds to charity, has seen sales go up 20 percent from the last holiday shopping season, according to Tim Smith, the nonprofit’s board chairman.

With the rush in shoppers, store employees have been pulling out more of their popular cards, ornaments and stained glass items from behind the shelves. As the last shopping weekend before Christmas approaches, Smith doesn’t anticipate the fewer shopping days will equate to less revenue.

“After Christmas, there are sales,” he said. “People come to do even more shopping and so we’re not concerned about selling our product at all.”

About The Author

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong

Bio:
Jessica Kwong covers transportation, housing, and ethnic communities, among other topics, for the San Francisco Examiner. She covered City Hall as a fellow for the San Francisco Chronicle, night cops and courts for the San Antonio Express-News, general news for Spanish-language newspapers La Opinión and El Mensajero,... more
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