The holiday season is a wonderful time, full of family and cheer.
And our own little vices.
Sales of alcohol, tobacco and firearms typically spike during the holiday season -- all three can make fine gifts -- and local merchants report this year's no different.
Except, that is, for the addition of a fourth vice: gambling.
Poker's been hot for months. With the holidays here, retailers hope to cash in. Stores as traditional as Filene's and as trendy as Spencer's Gifts are giving lots of space to poker ties and poker tables and Texas Hold 'Em for Dummies.
"Poker and Vegas-related items are real hot for this holiday," said Mark Champion, spokesman for Spencer's.
They've become especially hot among young people. As poker shows on television have mushroomed, the game has achieved a popularity unseen perhaps since the days of swinging saloon doors.
Paraphernalia and decorations are cool, too. To round out the gambling look, Champion suggested an LED Las Vegas light, a miniature of signs that brighten The Strip, 24/7.
"It's helped everyone create 'Sin City' in their own little crib," Champion said.
For the of-age set, local tobacco and liquor dealers report they're having good holidays, too.
At Hudson Valley Cigars, in New Windsor, owner Glynna Schlesinger said the store's having its best year ever.
The seven-year-old tobacconist and cigar bar, with a steak house next door, is pulling in lots of customers who want a fine smoke for their loved one, but don't know what to buy.
"We give a personalized touch here," she said. "I think people really miss that."
Liquor and wine stores are girding themselves for the holidays, too.
Randall Roche, owner of The Vineyards in Town of Wallkill, reports 30 percent of his business comes last two months of the year. There's lots of last-minute shopping, Roache said, but also plenty of celebratory Sauvignons and Grand Marnier gift sets bought throughout the holidays.
Stores reported a better-than-expected second week of the holiday season, according to the Retail Council of New York State.
Whether it was good weather, or a rush of pre-Hanukkah shopping, sales were up 3 percent to 5 percent in the week after Thanksgiving, compared to last year, the Council said.
The news was a good sign, but the whole story won't be known until New Year's. As well, merchants are hoping for a recovery from the lackluster Thanksgiving weekend, when sales slowed markedly after Black Friday. Even Wal-Mart has had to increase its pace of discounts.
"Retailers are looking ahead to the pivotal week before and after Christmas," said Council CEO James Sherin. "These two weeks will be the true indicator of the success of this holiday season."
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