In Pueblo, it’s a landmark symbol known by generations. ‘The revolving diamond.’ This time of year, more people will pass under it than at any other time. They’re holiday shoppers and they’re ready to buy jewelry or any the other stuff that this Pueblo institution sells. The ‘diamond’ is right above the entrance of Armstrong Jewelers, right where it’s been spinning for more than 60 years.
Business is good, said Diana DeLuca Armstrong, vice president of Armstrong Jewelers. That’s partly due to the way the calendar fell this year. “It gave us an extra week of shopping,” said DeLuca. And while business is good, she said, it’s going to get better. “It’s the last week of the holiday season that’s best.” DeLuca explains that “most of our business is late in December.” She attributes it to the last-minute rush of husbands or boyfriends coming in to buy for their significant others.
While Pueblo has known tough economic times, that’s not the case this year. In the late 70’s, the town’s two biggest employers, the steel mill along with the Pueblo Army Depot, downsized dramatically. Unemployment soared to 25 percent. But today, things are looking good, said Rod Slyhoff, President of the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce.
“We’re in good shape,” said the veteran Pueblo executive. “We participated in Small Business Saturday and there seemed to be a lot of interest, particularly in our Union Avenue shopping district.” Slyhoff also said that every space at the Pueblo Mall is also filled.
According to the National Retail Federation, Puebloans along with the rest of the country have upped their budgets from last year. NRF predicts that the average budget for holiday shopping jumped 4 percent, going from $967 in 2017 to $1,007 this year.
What are we buying? Wallethub, a website that tracks purchasing patterns, says 31 percent of shoppers are buying electronics and 30 percent are giving gift cards. Clothing, books and jewelry follow at 14, 9 and 5 percent.
For DeLuca, the holiday season starts well before Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Her store, which was started by her husband’s father in 1952, still offers Puebloans---along with scores of generational shoppers from across the Arkansas Valley---a lay-away plan. “We start it in July,” said DeLuca. “Our July and August were very good.” A good start to the summer lay-away, she said, usually means a good Christmas. A lot of the lay-away business is parents starting payments on class rings.
Pueblo shoppers also have the addition of two new anchor stores. “Dicks Sporting Goods and Cavenders, a western wear store, just opened,” said Slyhoff. And while Slyhoff never misses an opportunity to boost his town, he adds that “we’re working on several other opportunities for new business here.”
Puebloans, like all consumers, are spending for the holidays. But spending only means debt that won’t be paid off until February, according to NRF. It says that 55 million people will have holiday debt well into the early part of 2019. Much of this red ink will be on new credit cards that consumers will be applying for specifically for seasonal spending. An estimated 42 million people will be applying for a new credit card just for holiday spending.
Foot traffic at the Pueblo Mall, said mall general manager, Tim Schweitzer, has more than met expectations. “Our holiday shopping started off really strong,” said Schweitzer. The mall’s two anchor stores opened for Thanksgiving and did well, he said. Things continued upward on Black Friday.
Schweitzer also is thankful for the extra week of shopping that the calendar provided this year. But if there is one thing that did hold shopping down and it will through the holiday is the Denver Broncos. When they play, Puebloans, like most Coloradans, stay home.