FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Following the rush of holiday spending and boxing day sales, certain retailers have reported that they did well in sales throughout the seasons, but nothing near the strong numbers from 2014. For some, it’s possible an increase in online shopping that may have lowered the numbers.Marc Beerling of Mark Joseph Clothing says 2014 was a much stronger year for holiday shopping in comparison with this season — and more people utilizing online shopping might be part of that.“What I think it does for people in rural residences … is it opens up this shopping accessibility,” he said, adding that it’s popular just among big-city dwellers alone, but has gained steady traction in more remote cities due to more secure transactions and conversion of many stores to an online format.- Advertisement -However, even with online shopping in the game, Beerling’s optimism in sales heading into the New Year isn’t shaken.Neither is that of Darren Thiel, the co-owner of Backcountry. He said shoppers seem a bit more ‘conservative’ this year with their spending.“I think people are taking a closer watch on some of their discretionary spending,” he said. “Retail sales are down a bit.”Advertisement Looking ahead to the New Year, he says things aren’t likely going to pick up until the weather gets warmer and the peak of hunting season approaches. Thiel says the winter months tend to be the slowest, and they’ve braced themselves for a more conservative year.“It’s going to be a little while before it picks up again,” said Thiel.Both agree that a downturn in the oil patch has widened the gap between sales numbers this year versus last year. However, the outlook, in general, is fairly positive, and Thiel feels that this is just a side effect of the weakened economy — which hopefully has a temporary situation.