With the Conway Christmas Tree, extended shopping hours and a revitalized downtown, the Conway Downtown Partnership and Conway Area Chamber of Commerce planned for a successful Christmas shopping season.
Kim Williams, executive director of Conway Downtown Partnership, said although the chamber doesn’t have any hard numbers, through visiting with downtown merchants she has heard this was a very good Christmas.
"They have felt like this has been one of the best (Christmases) in years," she said.
The regional draw to Conway has been greater this year, Williams said, with a lot of people from neighboring communities like Russellville and Clarksville coming to Conway to see the largest Christmas tree in the Midsouth.
"People came to see the tree and said they didn’t realize the amount of shopping Conway has," she said. "They said they love coming to Conway over Little Rock because it is easier to get in and out of and the people are friendly."
Sales Associate Amber Bryant of Pizzazz Interiors said although the store is located across the street from the Conway Christmas Tree, the store did not do as well as the National Retail Federation’s prediction in October of holiday retail sales increasing by 3.9 percent.
With Pizzazz Interiors opening in April, Bryant said the lower than expected turn out could have been because Pizzazz is a new addition to the city, and people don’t know much about the store.
Although initial holiday sales were low, Pizzazz is experiencing an after-Christmas rush with discounted holiday inventory. Through mid-January the store will be offering 50 percent off on more than 80 percent of items in store including décor as well as seasonal inventory.
Since Branch Out opened on Oak Street in 2011, owner Beth Yockey said she has noticed more traffic this Christmas.
Yockey said the Conway Christmas Tree created a family atmosphere that drew people downtown.
"They would walk the strip and see that there’s something for everyone with entertainment, dining and shopping," she said.
With almost all of Oak Street occupied with businesses, shops and restaurants, Yockey said, the revitalization of downtown has been well publicized by the chamber and downtown merchants.
"Everyone has lent a helping hand in referring people to different business to keep it downtown and keep it local," she said.
Branch Out is open each night until 9 p.m. Many stores followed suit this year by extending hours for the holiday shopping season.
Yockey said she thinks the extended hours made a difference this year, especially for professionals who don’t get off work until 5 p.m.
Pizzazz Interiors stayed open an hour later the night the Conway Christmas Tree was first lit. Bryant said she’s watched people come and go to look at the tree, and feels it doesn’t live up to its potential.
"Our store has several trees in the window that draw more attention than the one across the street," she said.