Erin Dwyer: Telegraph-Journal
Published Thursday October 8th, 2009, Section C, page 5

Christmas Discounters gives shoppers an early jump

Business: Seasonal store has new location at East Point

Leanne Gallant, left, and her husband Peter are the franchise owners of Christmas Discounters at East Point Shopping Centre.

MATTHEW SHERWOOD PHOTO

SAINT JOHN - The leaves may have only begun to fall, but the holiday shopping season has officially begun at Christmas Discounters.

The seasonal store, which sells brand-name products at discount prices, is back for the second year in Saint John - in a new location at the East Point Shopping Centre, next to Le Chateau.

Targeting the budget-conscious holiday shopper, the store opened its doors Sept. 25.

"I remember thinking that's three months to Christmas," said store owner Leanne Gallant.

Already, customers are flocking to the store, hoping to bag the best bargains - from Christmas decorations and linens to brand-name toys like Disney, Dora the Explorer and Sesame Street.

"There were actually people waiting on Sunday when we opened," she said. "They were waiting at the door."

Christmas Discounters, which sells gift and seasonal items, is a franchise that retailer Greg Butler started several years ago in Prince Edward Island. In recent years, Butler expanded the franchise into New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. It now boasts seven locations throughout the Maritimes.

Last year, it had two locations in the Greater Saint John area - a store in the city and another in Quispamsis. Unable to find a suitable location this year in the Kennebecasis Valley, the company instead expanded into Fredericton at 1211 Prospect St. The Fredericton store is slated to open this weekend.

Overseeing the Saint John and Fredericton stores are Gallant and her husband, Peter, who jumped at the chance to be the franchise owners of the two locations this year when their friend, Butler, offered them the opportunity.

Gallant, an information technology consultant, is taking a short break from her profession to run the two stores. Her husband is an operations manager for Irving Oil in Prince Edward Island.

"We thought this would be a good opportunity for us," she said.

Besides having new franchise owners, the Saint John store also boasts a new location.

Last year, it could be found next to the Indigo bookstore. This year, Christmas Discounters will be located until the end of December in the former Cotton Ginny location at East Point Shopping Centre. This weekend, it's holding its grand reopening with door-crasher specials.

"It's a bigger space, which is good," said Gallant. "So we've got more room and more product."

Shelf after shelf inside the 465-square metre space is lined with discounted gift or seasonal items, from toys, candles and linens to lamps, jewellery, furniture, and Christmas decorations. Many of the items are brand-name products, like Harley-Davidson, NASCAR and Betty Crocker.

"We have everything from stocking stuffers to the stockings to stuff them into," Gallant said.

Gallant said customers seem to enjoy finding all of the different merchandise. Some have even told her they've cancelled shopping trips to the United States after discovering Christmas Discounters.

"A lot of our customers like it because they see different things - not things that they see in every other store," she added.

Every week, new shipments arrive containing more products, some being sold at 70 per cent less than the suggested retail price. Just this week, for example, Christmas Discounters was selling a shipment of Guitar Hero for Wii for $49.99 - nearly half of the suggested retail price. But once items are sold out, it's unlikely they will be restocked, Gallant said.

That makes the shopping experience at Christmas Discounters almost like finding presents under the tree. Each week, customers come back to see what new products they might find.

"We have new things arriving every couple of days," Gallant said, "So people come back. We have people who you start to get to know because they come back every few days to check things out."

Gallant is hoping that residents in the Kennebecasis Valley, who shopped last year at the Quispamsis location, will make the trip to Saint John to see this year's offerings at Christmas Discounters.

"We'll welcome everyone back from last year and new people," she said. "They should come for the great bargains and they should come for the variety and find things you don't see everywhere."

The store, which currently employs eight people, is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.