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Small Local Businesses Boom Despite National Sales

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KIRKWOOD, MO (KTVI)-- It was the worst holiday shopping season nationally since the depth of the great recession in 2008, but some St. Louis small businesses beg to differ with the national numbers released Wednesday.  In one corner of metro St. Louis, business is booming. 

Despite optimistic predictions of a 4% surge in retail business, the growth numbers, according to MasterCard, were actually 0.7%.  “Lackluster” and “disappointing” were  among the adjectives headlining business pages.

But in Kirkwood, at Christopher’s boutique, owner Christopher Thau says he had the best holiday season of his seventeen years in business.

“I was a little bit concerned about the Christmas season.  It turned out to be great.  We had a little above a 5% increase. I’m very happy with that.  It was the best Christmas ever,” he said.

Thau says part of the advantage smaller businesses have is a better knowledge of customers at the individual stores as well as an ability to adapt more quickly.  For example, this year’s unseasonably warm holiday season was a blow to some bigger retailers.

“If you’re carrying lots of sweaters and cold weather merchandise, frankly we didn’t have a cold winter.  Just now we’re experiencing some cold but it’s the day after Christmas.  People expect that stuff to be on sale.  Before Christmas there were sweaters piled to the ceiling in those stores.”

Up the street at Paper Dolls, they weren’t sharing specific numbers, but manager Lisa Fanetti says she’s pleased with the season’s results.

“We definitely had our goals from last year that we wanted to meet this year.  We definitely exceeded our goals personally as a small business.  It’s a lot different than corporate stores in the mall.”

Those corporate stores were hampered by warm weather in some parts of the country, and the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in the densely populated, highly lucrative northeast.  Some experts point to that as dragging down national numbers, but other experts offer differing views. 

“The reality of the situation is the average American has less money in their pocket,” Keith Fitz-Gerald of Money Map Press told Fox News Channel, “They're very concerned about the lack of adult supervision in Washington.”

But shoppers in Kirkwood Wednesday brushed off the political explanation.

“I don’t think normal people think about the fiscal cliff affecting their lives too much.  I think it’s a lot of political noise,” shopper Jessica Adams said.