Yelm businesses explain importance of holiday shopping season

Local shops rely heavily on December revenue to make ends meet


The holiday season is in the books, and for numerous small businesses in Yelm, this time of year brings a sigh of relief.

The Christmas shopping season, as several Yelm business owners state, is not only the busiest but the most crucial time of the year to pay for overhead and labor fees.

The decision that consumers make to shop at a local business as opposed to a major retailer is what keeps local economies like Yelm’s flowing. For many corporations, the holiday shopping season starts Thanksgiving weekend and sometimes even earlier. According to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation, a record 200.4 million consumers shopped over the five-day holiday weekend from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday.

But for Yelm businesses like Tim’s Pharmacy, Funtime Toys & Gifts, Between Sisters Boutique and DC’s Treasures, the holiday shopping season doesn’t typically stretch that long. The week leading up to Christmas is the make-or-break week.

“That week leading up to Christmas is always pretty busy, usually up to Christmas Eve. Saturday the 23rd, we were rocking,” Tim’s Pharmacy co-owner Will Quinby said. “A large portion of our yearly revenue occurs right before Christmas.”

Heather Ekland, owner of Funtime Toys & Gifts, concurred with Quinby. She said business was steady until the last three days before Christmas, when she experienced an influx of customers.

“It was extremely busy those days, so that was unusual,” she said. “This was a different year from anything I’ve seen over the last 18 years of me doing this.”

Ekland added that for smaller toy stores like Funtime, she doesn’t have the same inventory “buying power” as larger retailers. But the revenue gained through the holidays ensures that she can bring in new inventory that is in high demand.

“It pays off any debts that have been incurred through the year. It’s also part of what helps me bring in new inventory for the new year,” she said. “We can’t buy on the level that the bigger guys can.”

Word of mouth and social media are necessary tools for local businesses to thrive. Nanette Potter, owner of Between Sisters Boutique, helped spread the word about Pink Friday, an event to support small businesses the first the week before Black Friday.

“It’s something that I’ve been trying to encourage in Yelm. We joined that movement again this year, and it was fun,” Potter said. “We tried to promote other businesses in the process, too. It’s big in the boutique community because we’re pretty connected.”

Potter said that in today’s economic climate, Between Sisters Boutique heavily relies on the holiday shopping season because it helps the business get through the first few months of the new year. David Campbell, manager of DC’s Treasures, added that while the business doesn’t specifically rely on its holiday revenue to get by, he appreciates how the Yelm community prioritizes shopping locally.

“It definitely helps our small businesses. We don’t make as much as the big places do, so we appreciate all the customers that we do get,” Campbell said. “Every year we’re getting more and more known.”

For local retailers, the entire year is often geared toward the last month of the year. Despite the stressful nature of operating a business, particularly during the holidays, small businesses in Yelm survive because of the community’s support, Ekland and Potter said.

“People are figuring out that shopping local is extremely important. I mean, during the pandemic, this community saved its small businesses by focusing very carefully on shopping local,” Ekland said. “It’s valuable on a level that’s difficult to quantify. It’s not just dollars and cents. It’s knowing your community has your back.”

“Our community is just amazing. There’s so many small businesses in town, and they value the community support that they receive,” Potter added. “They go out of their way to shop local to return the favor.”