STRONG BLACK FRIDAY SALES HELPED SMALL JERSEY SHORE BUSINESSES
By David P. Willis/Asbury Park Press
November 28, 2011
While people poured through the automatic doors of big stores like Target and Best Buy on Black Friday, the start of a holiday shopping weekend, others rang the registers of small businesses around the Jersey Shore.
“It was fantastic,” said Mercedes Wall, co-owner of Carter & Cavero, a Red Bank store that sells olive oil. “It was absolutely wonderful. We had amazing sales, so people came out.”
On Sunday, the National Retail Federation said shoppers flocked to stores, spending on average $398.62, up from $365.34 last year. An estimated $52.4 billion was spent in stores and online over the shopping weekend, which started late Thanksgiving night, the earliest start for Black Friday shopping.
The survey did not break out how much of that business went to mom-and-pop stores. But small businesses are an important part of the holiday shopping season.
“Small retailers are the backbone of this country, serving millions of people everyday with their unique offerings,’’ said Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation.
In an informal survey of several businesses, store owners said they were helped by a national push to promote shopping at local stores, called Small Business Saturday, an effort backed by American Express.
“Friday was probably one of the busiest Black Fridays we have had in a decade,” said Alan Fisher, owner of A.H. Fisher Diamonds in Red Bank. Saturday brought sales as well.
Fisher participated in Small Business Saturday last year, but this year’s numbers surpassed 2010, he said. “Usually we get lookers. This year we had lookers and buyers,” he said.
Scott Hamm, co-owner of Shelter Home in Asbury Park, saw an uptick in sales. “Both Black Friday and Small Business Saturday we did great,” Hamm said. “Small Business Saturday was our best single day in about six months.”
People were waiting for the weekend to shop for the holidays. “People are wanting to support their local businesses,” Hamm said. “I saw a lot of people in Asbury shopping that I haven’t seen since the summer. It was great.”
The business was welcome after the store took a hit following the wet weather in August, including Hurricane Irene, he said. “It was a big relief. … We needed a good day like that,” Hamm said.
Business owners pointed to the popularity of the shop-local movement.
“People really enjoy that personal shopping experience,” said Sheena MacClaren, co-owner of Plethora Boutique in Point Pleasant. “I think it creates a special unique environment.”
For some shoppers, the choice to “shop local” stood out this year, said Sharon Murphy, co-owner of Idiosyncrazies in Point Pleasant Beach.
“We had a few people that came in and just said they were tired of all the advertising, some stores opening at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving night,” Murphy said. “People were just tired of the big box stores. They know that if they shop locally, they are kind of helping their own little communities.”
Shoppers were rooting for small businesses, said Wall, of Carter & Cavero, which has locations in Red Bank, Long Branch, Summit and Princeton.
“They really came out for us,” she said.
There also was an extra push to offer deals as well, Wall said. “People were looking for that when they were looking at small businesses,” she said. They say, “ ‘Great, you’re a small business, but what are you offering?’ So we made sure we put out deals out there that really caught people’s attention and it was well worth it.”
Sales were up over last year, she added.
The warm weather also helped bring people downtown and into shops. Over the past four days, temperatures have been 15 to 20 degrees above average, said state Climatologist David Robinson. It was more reminiscent of early October than late November.
“If you are comparing street shopping versus mall shopping, who would have walked around downtown Red Bank or Somerville on a rainy Friday, Saturday or Sunday?” Robinson said. “This way, it was like, ‘Let’s go out and go outside.’ ”
Fisher, of A.H. Fisher Diamonds, noticed the shoppers.
“There was more foot traffic in Red Bank Friday and Saturday than I think I have seen other Thanksgiving weekends,” Fisher said. “I am being very optimistic for a good holiday season.”