Local retailers are unsure how this holiday shopping season will compare with years past, but they agree buyers have clearly targeted some favorite items.
“The zhu zhu pets were absolutely the hottest this year,” said Lisa Bucking, proprietor of the Variety Store on Main Street.
Bucking said her store received three separate shipments of the furry, plush electronic hamsters that have been high on kids Christmas lists. All of them have been sold, and the store has kept a list of parents who are hoping to pick one up if another shipment comes in.
Bucking said that shoppers also went for many of the more basic, non-mechanical toys like Slinky and yo-yos.
“It could be the economy,” she speculated, “but we’ve also seen a lot of people interested in board games.”
Nada Barry at the Wharf Shop would agree, noting that many of her customers have come in for games. Bananagrams and Canoodle have been the most popular.
“And old fashioned jigsaw puzzles,” she said. “We’ve sold an incredible number.”
Barry said the store still sells some doll houses and customers regularly come in for specific Legos. She couldn’t assess how the season was as a whole.
“The weather was so bad in December that we’ve been skewed,” she said. “The first week in December was awful, then we started to pick up, but then we had this storm,” observed Barry, making it difficult to make a fair comparison to previous years.
Across the street, Lee Elliot at Lee Jewelers agreed that the recent blizzard was not a help to merchants.
“It hurts business,” he observed, adding he was unsure how this season would add up, but he said business had definitely increased for the Christmas season.
In his store, Elliot has noticed that Bulova watches are selling well. And for the past four years peace signs — many of which are made by Elliot himself — have been the biggest seller at Christmas time.
At Sag Harbor Liquors, Heidi Schmitz and her father Bob, said people are still buying at a good clip, but perhaps buying less expensive items.
“Instead of $50 wines they’ll buy $35 wines,” said Bob.
Heidi said the seasonal favorites — for gift giving or consuming — seem to be the “big reds,” wines she described as “jammy.” On the white side, “rich chardonnays are moving well.”
Many shoppers are looking for values, and father and daughter said they frequently steer people to South American wines.
For the holidays, “bubbles are big,” said Heidi, with the Italian sparkler prosecco particularly popular.
At Book Hampton Sarah Doherty said books have always been popular gifts.
Topping the list in fiction this year are “The Girl Who played With Fire,” by Stieg Larsson; “The Help,” a novel about household help in the 1960s written from the maid’s point of view by Kathryn Stockett, and the mystery thriller “Pirate Latitudes,” by Michael Chrichton.
In non-fiction, top buys are Jacqueline Leo’s “7: The Number for Happiness, Love and Success,” Andre Agassi’s autobiography “Open,” and “Cleaver,” by Julie Powell, the author of “Julie and Julia.”
Doherty agreed that business has increased in the past two weeks because of the holidays, but said it was hard to say how spending varied from last year.
Mike Tibbetts at BikeHampton said items for gifts seem to parallel the change of the seasons, with street bikes giving way to mountain bikes, since they can be ridden in a variety of conditions. Also, apparel and accessories are popular for the bikers in the family.
He said he feels shopping is about where it has been in recent years.
“People still ride bikes,” he said.