While still early, the initial feedback from local and state merchants is that the 2011 holiday shopping season was a good one.
In a story Thursday in the Detroit News, Jim Hallan, president of the Michigan Retailers Association, said initial reports indicated holiday sales across Michigan would be better than 6 percent over last year.
He attributed an improving economy, lower gas prices and good weather as some of the reasons for the improvement.
While local figures are hard to project, one barometer that can be used is the amount of downtown gift cards sold through the Downtown Development Authority. This season over $43,700 was sold in gift cards - which will translate into a lot of foot traffic throughout the downtown. In fact Monday - the day after Christmas - the downtown was busy with people in and out of stores.
The news wasn't all positive, unfortunately, as Sears Holdings Corp. officials announced earlier this week that lower than projected sales with their Sears and Kmart stores would necessitate them closing approximately 120 locations after the new year. Thankfully, none of the closings were in Northeast Michigan communities.
While most would agree there still is a long way to complete economic recovery for the region, there is at least glimpses of positive signs that have merchants at least smiling a little.
And that, after years of frowns, is positive news indeed.