Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Retailer Adds 3 Stores, Tests Christmas Sales in Tulsa Market

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Retailer Adds 3 Stores, Tests Christmas Sales in Tulsa Market

Article excerpt

Two years ago University of Kentucky business undergrad Nick Miller saw an opportunity in Halloween seasonal sales and opened a two-month Halloween Express superstore in Tulsa.

Last year the family operation added one in Norman and one in Oklahoma City.

This year his team operates six, adding a second Tulsa store and two in Texas. But after the spook-fest's completed, Miller intends to keep his flagship Tulsa store open through Jan. 8 as Christmas Express, testing the waters again during the height of the retail year.

"This flows easy," said Miller. Able to carry over the building, computers and employees, his only hassle involves changing over the inventory. He expects to reopen the store Nov. 10 as Christmas Express.

Some may consider it a risky time to experiment, with a credit crunch shaking the residential markets and signs of consumer unrest seen from national retailer reports to Wall Street. Sales of trees, ornaments and all the extras also carry Miller into a much more competitive marketplace, one targeted not only by discounters like Wal-Mart and Target but specialty and trade stores like Hobby Lobby, Hallmark and Home Depot.

The customers also differ somewhat, the Halloween operation targeting those 18 to 34 years old with children, while the Christmas Express - part of a 30-store national test - targets buyers 25 to 50.

But with steady September sales behind him, Miller doesn't worry about consumers limiting their pocketbooks this Halloween. The National Retail Federation agrees, forecasting a 9.7-percent increase in spending this year for what has become a $5.07 billion industry. That foresees the average consumer's pocket outlay rising from $59.06 in 2006 to $64.02 this year.

The federation takes a more conservative approach to the much- larger Xmas season, projecting a 4-percent spending hike to $474.5 billion.

"Even though the economy isn't quite as good as it was, Halloween sales haven't changed much, and I don't expect them to," said Miller.

Miller expects Christmas Express to carve a niche with discount pricing and an extended inventory, beginning with more than 60 different types of trees. …

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