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Local businesses optimistic about holiday sales



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Gallery 35 Manager Michele Pirro helps customer and Bon Bons Confections Chocolatier Lydia Olsen. ALDO NAHED. (click for larger version)

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Brian Iroff of Iroff and Son shows Gene Jablonski of Cumming a pair of diamond earrings. MELISSA MAYTON. (click for larger version)
December 18, 2012
NORTH FULTON/FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — From the car and pedestrian traffic around The Avenue Forsyth, North Point Mall and other shopping destinations, the holiday shopping season is off to a good start.

Thanksgiving came a week early this year, giving retailers an additional seven days to push products and extend business hours.

Major retailers like Walmart and Best Buy have yet to report financial data for the season, but local retailers can already see an increase in sales.

"Sales are definitely up this year," said Chad Milford, owner of The Green Bean Exchange in Cumming. "We're selling a lot of holiday ornaments and decor, and of course, our handmade jewelry is always a hit."

Jacqueline Venchi, co-owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Alpharetta, said this has been an excellent season.

Venchi said the store sells a large amount of gift items like bird feeders and garden decor during the holiday season.

"We're having a great season, so far," Venchi said. "We've already run out of several items and had to reorder."

Venchi is cautiously optimistic and attributes the increase in sales to the warmer weather.

"I know it has not felt very Christmas-like, but I think the good weather made people want to get out and get their shopping done sooner," she said.

Candy Kane, who owns The Red Hound in Johns Creek, said the specialty gift business is doing well, but she doesn't see much of an increase compared to last year.

"We have a strong customer base," she said.

Kane said their top seller is the Sid Dickens Memory Blocks.

"These always sell well," she said.

At Gallery 35 in Alpharetta, Michele Pirro, a manager, said people have been coming in to purchase handmade gifts that the Milton Avenue store carries.

"We thought it was slow in the fall, but we are happy that we've had some really great days," Pirro said. "It's certainly making up for it."

The holiday season is a time for celebration, and stores like Cutter's Cigars in Alpharetta have had lots of folks looking to gift cigars.

"This is our first holiday season," said Frank Madonna, a manager, "but it's been great because cigars are a big part of the holidays for many people."

Madonna said smoking accessories like lighters are big sellers, too.

"For cigar smokers, accessories are always great gifts," he said.

The National Retail Federation predicted an increase in seasonal sales of about 4 percent from last year and if the consistent ringing of local cash registers is any indication, they just might be right.

Christmas and Chanukah aren't the only special dates people celebrate.

"Engagement rings are always big sellers over the holidays," said Brian Iroff, owner of Iroff and Sons Jewelers in Alpharetta.

"Really, anything with diamonds are big, especially diamond earrings," Iroff said.

Iroff said business is up from last year, but he's cautiously optimistic.

"We've had a great season so far and expect it to continue," he said.

— Aldo Nahed contributed reporting to this article.

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