The Guinea Pigg, a store specializing in women’s clothing and accessories, will open at 110 N. Tejon St. in April, moving from its 30-year location in Old Colorado City.

The store is owned by Sy and Sue Bachman.

“We have a pretty good base of customers that will follow us,” Sy Bachman said. “And we think we’ll capture many more at the new location. Old Colorado City is a tourist place, and we want more local customers.”

The new location has 25 percent more space, allowing Guinea Pigg to carry a larger variety of items. The store specializes in offering clothing and jewelry that can be difficult to find elsewhere, such as Roman glass jewelry, crafted from glass dug up in archeological sites in Israel.

“Some of the pieces are 1,700 and 2,200 years old,” Bachman said. “And the glass has a patina – opals, greens, blues – from reacting with minerals in the ground. They are very unusual pieces, very unique in this area. We carry rare and semi-precious stones, probably the largest collection in town.”

Much of the collection at the Guinea Pigg is imported from Europe. Because of the unusual line of clothing and jewelry, Bachman said he believes the store will complement the other retailers on Tejon Street.

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“There is some crossover,” he said. “But not much. We think it will be very synergistic. We’ll provide a variety and we think it will be a good move for us – it’s a better environment for our type of store.”

Retail theft bill becomes law

A new law, signed by President Bush on Jan. 5, has established an Organized Retail Theft Task Force at the FBI and created a retail crime database.

“The establishment of an FBI task force on organized retail theft is a major victory for retailers,” said Joseph LaRocca, vice president for loss prevention of the National Retail Federation. “This task force and the related database will play a major role in putting these criminals where they belong – behind bars. This shows that Congress and the administration have recognized that organized retail crime isn’t just everyday shoplifting, and that they are committed to fighting this growing problem.”

The law requires the attorney general to establish an ORT task force within the FBI. The panel will work with the retail community to create a national database or clearinghouse to identify where organized retail crimes are committed. The information should help the FBI identify hot spots of organized retail crime activity across the country and deploy agents and resources more efficiently.

The bill also provides a concise working definition of organized retail crime and authorizes $5 million annually for law enforcement to participate in the database and train federal law enforcement agents to investigate and prosecute the crimes.

LaRocca said the bill is a significant win for retailers, who have been increasingly victimized by professional shoplifting gangs in recent years. Federal law enforcement authorities estimate that theft rings steal as much as $30 billion in merchandise from retail stores every year.

The database will be established by the private sector for use by retailers and law enforcement agencies nationwide. The Retail Loss Prevention Intelligence Network, launched by NRF last fall, was designed in anticipation of the bill’s approval. RLPIN is a secure computer database that allows retailers to share information about incidents ranging from burglaries to organized theft.

Holiday sales meet forecast

While some claimed a flat holiday season, analysts at the National Retail Federation are seeing good news with November and December sales.

“This was clearly more than just a ho-hum holiday season as some have prematurely reported,” said NRF Chief Economist Rosalind Wells. “Thanks to a last-minute surge in spending, fueled in part by gift cards, consumers gave retailers a reason to cheer.”

According to the NRF, retail industry sales (which exclude automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) for December increased 5.7 percent unadjusted compared to last year, and were flat seasonally adjusted from the previous month.

Combined, November and December brought holiday sales growth to 6.4 percent, slightly higher than NRF’s forecast of 6 percent. After all receipts were tallied, consumers spent $438.6 billon this holiday season.

December retail sales figures released by the U.S. Commerce Department show that total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories, such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) rose 0.7 percent seasonally adjusted from November and 6.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

Building material and garden equipment and supplies stores saw positive gains, with sales up 8.2 percent compared to 2004. Because of aggressive pricing and clearance promotions, sales at clothing and clothing accessories stores increased 7.6 percent. Electronics, led by high-demand merchandise, such as iPods and X-Box 360s, also performed well in December. Sales in electronics and appliance stores increased 7 percent.

Additionally, strong year-over-year gains were seen at health and personal care stores (6.8 percent), furniture and home furnishing stores (5.6 percent) and sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores (4.4 percent).

Sales at department stores, which were challenged by discounters and luxury retailers this holiday season, were down 3 percent from December 2004.

Amy Gillentine covers retail for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.