Shoppers turn out in Village for bargains

It was relatively quiet on the streets of La Jolla’s downtown Village the day after Christmas.

But not because shoppers weren’t there: They were in the boutiques hunting for bargains.

On a brisk, sunny winter day following a rainstorm, patio dining at The Cottage restaurant at 7702 Fay Ave. was completely packed with a long line curling out the door.

The general consensus among Village merchants was that holiday business was indeed down a bit this year over last, but nothing like the worst-case scenario some had feared.

Coskun Cetinkaya, owner of Alexander Perfumes & Cosmetics at 7914 Girard Ave., said his Christmas business this year was “very good. It’s a big time.”

But, he acknowledged that, overall, it was a little bit slower than last year.

Beyond expectations

Gepetto’s toy shop at 7850 Girard Ave. was also doing a brisk business with plenty of people browsing the shelves at 11 a.m.

“It’s better than we expected,” noted store clerk Molly McCarthy. “We’re getting a lot of tourist trade, people buying gifts.”

Sue Treadway of Papyrus on Girard, a stationery, card and gift shop, was also pleasantly surprised by shopper turnout this season, though she had no “expectations” heading into the holidays.

“Comparatively speaking, it wasn’t bad at all,” she said. “We just took a wait-and-see attitude, go with the flow.”

Hunting for bargains

It was hard to tell that business has been off at Warwick’s Bookstore at 7812 Girard Ave. with the number of bargain hunters combing through the store last Friday.

“The last week was really fantastic in terms of sales,” noted owner Nancy Warwick. “It doesn’t change the fact that, overall, the season was down. But it was a fun last week.”

The day after Christmas with its discounted merchandise is always a big shopping day, but Warwick said the 26th this year was “probably bigger than last year or the year before.”

She said lots of Christmas and other merchandise in her store was marked down 50 percent.

Appreciating customers

Warwick said the reaction she got from clients this year was really heartwarming.

“People just made a point of saying thank you, and we hope you’re doing OK and we’re pleased to spend some of our dollars with you,” she said. “I felt just really appreciative of our customers.”

This holiday season to combat a down economy and lagging consumer spending, Village merchants banded together to try some new promotion and marketing techniques.

Gina Phillips, owner of Adelaide’s Florist, spearheaded a “Find the Jewel” promotion in which participating merchants hung a “jewel” on selected store items marked down 20 percent. Village shops also stayed open later on Tuesdays in December.

Both attempts to draw customers met with mixed success.

“It was hard because this holiday was so unpredictable,” said Phillips. “Everyone was looking for a deal. The Hide the Jewel sale we may continue until mid-January. Some people did very well with it, some didn’t.”

She added that the Tuesday nights in the Village was a little tougher because “it was so cold at night, and not a lot of stores stayed open. … Maybe it needs to be planned out a little earlier.”