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Holiday Shopping Starts in Square

Local Store Owners Optimistic About Seasonal Business

By Janet C. Chang

On your marks, get set, shop!

The holiday season has begun in Harvard Square.

"The season officially started on Friday," said Amanita L. Hyldahl, clerk at Chameleon gift and clothing store in the Garage. "All of a sudden, business tripled."

Store managers throughout the Square are very optimistic about sales this year.

"This is the first time the media has been positive," Allan E. Powell, general manager of the Coop, said of national reports predicting a booming holiday business. "That helps."

Nationally, the numbers were good as well for the weekend. Fine jewelery and men's sportswear sales rose by double-digit percentages from a year earlier. Sales from speciality stores in 26 big malls around the country rose nine percent over the same period last year.

Locally, retailers agreed that the cold weather has boosted sales tremendously.

"We sell more winter clothing and jackets," said Ray B. Hindle, manager of City Sports on Dunster Street.

"People come inside instead of window shopping," Hindle added. "And when they come inside, they're likely to leave with something."

If the weather turns worse, that could be an even bigger boost.

"I wish it would snow," said Tarek Hassan, manager of The Tannery shoe and clothing store on Brattle Street. "When people see snow, they think, 'Gotta go shopping.'"

According to Hassan, shoppers in the Square are buying Birkenstocks, Rollerblades and Coach handbags.

At the HMV music store on Brattle, customers are snapping up video games, boxed sets of CDs and gift certificates, said Lisa Goren, the store's manager.

"People have already started buying," said Janet, a salesperson at Cahaly's clothing, gift and accessory store on Brattle who declined to give her last name. "There's a nice spirit in the air."

Also in the Square air are snatches of Bing Crosby songs, punctuated by melodies from Salvation Army bell-ringers. Garlands and blinking lights decked store windows and streets. HMV gave away hot cider.

"People are more into it this year," said Emily M. Lyon, assistant manager of the Bob Slate stationery store on Massachusetts Avenue. "Perhaps the optimism makes people feel better about giving things away and spending money."

Some stores are also celebrating Hanukkah. An assortment of Yiddish music was on display at HMV. HMV also plans displays to celebrate Kwanzaa, an African-American holiday observed after Christmas. --Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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