Invermere retailers say they're seeing a renewed interest in Christmas shopping from their customers this year.

Invermere retailers say they're seeing a renewed interest in Christmas shopping from their customers this year.

A green Christmas?

Holiday economic forecasts are rosy compared to 2010, but local businesses say they'll wait and see.

Several national surveys have predicted Canadians will spend more on Christmas gifts this year than they did in 2010, but Invermere’s small business owners aren’t yet sure how they’ll fit into that trend.

According to an Ipsos Reid survey conducted for RBC in late November, British Columbians are expected to spend an average of $674 on gifts this year, up from $539 last holiday season.

Other analysts are pointing to increased Canadian spending during Black Friday and Cyber Monday (up by 8 and 15 per cent, respectively, according to debt and credit processor Moneris Solutions) as a sign of a strong spending season to come.

While a number of local business owners say they’re seeing renewed enthusiasm for holiday shopping, they’re not sure this far from the 25th if their numbers will match the national trend.

Businesses spoken to by the Echo at the end of the Super Sunday weekend were reporting steady traffic for the shopping event.

“People generally seem to be pretty gung-ho this year,” said James Lazarus of the Book Bar.

“Light Up was awesome this year… I think people are in the mood. There’s a good feel in town.”

But while he feels the Christmas shopping season started earlier in 2011 than it did last year, Lazarus says he hasn’t seen sales numbers to match last season’s yet.

Be Gifted owner Alita Bentley also questions whether local sales figures will see a dramatic increase.

But she does think shoppers are more aware of the power their dollars have, thanks to various local shopping campaigns.

“Whether or not it’s increased, I don’t know. It’s kind of hard to monitor,” she says. “But we have lots of local customers, and second homeowners too.”

Bentley also says she thinks creativity will be the key for business success this holiday season — a sentiment she shares with Lazarus. At Be Gifted, she’s staged special events with prizes. The Book Bar, meanwhile, is pushing its $20 gifts because “the economy sucks, everyone’s broke… not everyone can afford to spend $100 on a gift.”

For another local business, a change of location has made all the difference this year.

Natalie Ruby of Black Star Studios — formerly located in the same shopping strip as Bavin Glassworks — says moving into town has provided a 2011 uptick.

“We’re busy, but we went from up there to down here, so it was a step up for us,” she says, but adds she’s also seeing more enthusiasm from customers.

“I think it’s in the back of everyone’s mind: first try local,” she says. “We’re trying to do the same.”