In the Square, It's Shopping Season

Merchants Expecting High Sales

Ask local merchants about the Christmas shopping season, and they'll tell you the Recession Scrooge is gone and the Grinch is not stealing the holiday spirit--or wallet--this year.

In fact, Christmas Present is looking significantly better than recent Christmases Past for holiday sales. With the easing of the recession, local merchants say shoppers are rushing to their stores like children to the tree on Christmas morning.

"I expect sales to be better this year than the last couple of years," says Michael J. Draemer, manager of Discount Records on JFK Street.

Local stores are extending their hours and hiring temporary employees to help frenzied shoppers in their quest for wintertime conspicuous consumption.

Whether you are looking for clothing, quirky educational gifts, books or compact discs, several stores in the Square report they are fully stocked and raring to sell.

The winning product for the season so far appears to be Power Rangers action figures, the '90s answer to the Cabbage patch craze of the mid-'80s. The small plastic Ninja figurines are already sold out in most stores.

Stores which are part of national chains, however, report that they cannot comment without permission from central headquarters.

The Harvard Bookstore on Massachusetts Avenue was bustling with literature-minded customers yesterday. The bookstore has 75,000 books, including 5,000 new titles, in stock to satisfy the rush of holiday book-worms, says manager Carole Horn.

"We're substantially ahead of last year," Horn says.

Unless you're an elf, the winter season is not only the time for giving to others. Shoppers are also buying for themselves at places like Oona's, a used clothing store on Mass. Ave.

Manager Kathleen M. White says shoppers do not buy used clothing for their friends, but they can't quite stifle the urge to do some non-holiday shopping.

Shoppers are saying, "I can't resist spending money on myself," says White.

Beneath the tinsel, the holiday season shop-a-thon is a serious business for stores new to the Square, which are dependent on strong holiday seasons for continued economic health.

The WGBH Learningsmith on Brattle St. is heading into its second winter with great hopes.

"Purchases are up and people are more attuned to Learningsmith," says manager Donna H. Reitzas.

To avoid the frustration of the winter holiday rush, several store owners suggest--surprise--shopping early and often.