Originally created 12/15/04

Service sector's sales soar



The malls aren't the only places people are spending money this holiday season.

From liquor stores to plumbers, many service industries and retailers not typically associated with holiday shopping are seeing green this time of year.

"We've had business about triple," said Phillip Song, the owner of Superstar Wine & Spirits on Deans Bridge Road. "(People are) buying a lot of high-price items."

Mr. Song said more people are stopping in to buy gifts for their bosses and stock up for holiday parties.

Those customers are hitting florists, too.

Deborah Partridge, the owner of Martina's Flowers & Gifts on Washington and Peach Orchard roads, said many of her customers are sending flowers to friends and co-workers as gifts or to people throwing parties.

"They want to send flowers for the table," she said.

Such holiday sales and business tend to fall below the radar of most analysts. The International Council of Shopping Centers, for example, only tracks holiday sales at traditional retailers, such as jewelry, electronics or department stores.

"We just don't track that," said Patrice Duker, a council spokeswoman, said of the service sector.

But that doesn't mean business isn't booming.

Lorraine Hoefs, the owner of Pretty Fingers Hair Etc. on Pleasant Home Road, said her business is up more than 150 percent compared with a regular month.

"The holiday season is definitely better than the rest of the year," she said. "People are going to parties, doing things; they're going out."

People also are taking advantage of the holiday time off to get their cars fixed.

"The day after Thanksgiving was supposed to be the biggest shopping day of the year, and we were very busy that day," said Aaron Clements, the co-owner of C&C Automotive Service on Telfair Street. He said many people drop off one car at his shop and use the other car to go shopping.

Paula Dickens, the office manager at Turner Mechanical, which specializes in heating, air and plumbing service, said she hasn't seen a real uptick in business but is expecting a rush as the weather gets colder and Christmas nears.

With so many people getting together for holiday dinners, it's inevitable that drains will get clogged, she said.

"You don't want to know the things we pull out of drains," she said. "There's grease and normal stoppages, and of course kids putting things in the toilet."

Reach James Gallagher at (706) 823-3227 or james.gallagher@augustachronicle.com.

Holiday Sales

Here is a look at the percentage of the year's sales different retail sectors recorded in the fourth quarter of 2003:

Sector and percent

Electronics/appliance stores - 31.8

Clothing stores - 31.7

Jewelry stores - 40.1

Discount department stores - 30.6

National department stores - 34.2

Warehouse clubs/superstores - 29.3

Health/personal care stores - 26.7

Shoe stores - 27.5

Furniture/home furnishing stores - 28.4

SOURCE: International Council of Shopping Centers