For Lake Oswego merchants, Christmas 2011 was a season to be jolly.

Shopping was on the upswing locally this holiday season, although no single factor stood out as for why.

'Our sales went very well,' said Greg Breisith, owner of Lake Oswego Ace Hardware. 'Our sales went up 11 percent from last year and December was our best month ever.

'We did have more Christmas items on hand, but honestly, it's always a mystery when it comes to holiday shopping.'

Still, the merchants had reasons to be happy.

'We did just fine,' said Teri Graham of Graham's Book and Stationery. 'We had lots of traffic. I think a lot of it had to do with our gingerbread house (which took first prize in the city contest). This was also our first year with our bookstore downstairs.

'By the end we'll show we had a more profitable season because we had less one-half-price stuff. You can only have so many snowmen on your mantle. All in all, it was a great year.'

'Fabulous,' was the answer of Susan Olson of World Class Wines when asked about holiday sales. 'We made some improvements. We're a little older and a little wiser.'

'People were more willing to spend a little more and make a good impression with their Christmas presentations,' said Chris Eddy of the Garden Center. 'People were tired of penny pinching. I guess they wanted to decorate no matter what or else they had more money to spend. The shopping atmosphere was more relaxed this year.'

'We had a great Christmas,' said Blake Zogelman of The Oilerie. 'Now that we've been in business here for 18 months more people know me. Our advertising in the gift guide helped a lot, and we were a featured business in Sunset Magazine.'

At Spin Boutique there was a strong late surge in holiday shopping.

'People did most of their shopping the week of Christmas this year,' said owner Stephanie Gurdian. 'Last year they started on Dec. 2. But we ended up with more sales this year.'

Laura Adler showed plenty of holiday spirit at Bernard C. Chocolatier, giving away a 66-pound chocolate Santa Claus to benefit the Our Lady of the Lake building program. Her generosity was rewarded with excellent sales.

'We were sold out by Christmas Eve,' Adler said. 'People had some consumer confidence. Or else they wanted to give away some really good chocolate.'

Sales also showed a rise at Lamb's Palisades Thriftway and the Glass Butterfly.

Not all shopping was motivated by circumstances as inspiring as the Christmas spirit. The looming election year of 2012 had an effect on shoppers' attitudes too.

'People were cautious,' said Patti Hoag of Lake Oswego Jewelers. 'I've been in the jewelry business for 42 years, and when you're going into a Presidential year sales go in a flatter direction. I'm a member of the Oregon Line Chat, which has 1,000 independent jewelers, and they've all found that to be true for many, many years.'

At Accessories From The Heart, owner Carol Winston said Christmas sales were down a couple of percentage points this year. But she was still full of warm, fuzzy feelings.

'I have a lot to be grateful for,' Winston said. 'I am always grateful to our loyal customers. It was a wonderful surprise this year that for the first time people were talking about supporting local businesses. They understand that it's the small business owner that supports community activities.'

Winston hopes this attitude will help local businesses deal with some challenging trends.

'People are now doing 50 percent of their shopping online, and that doesn't bode well for small businesses across the nation. We're at a tipping point right now.

'But I'm not complaining at all. My business is extraordinarily healthy.'

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