Today, as the Thanksgiving holiday has become synonymous with not just turkey, stuffing, and family time but also with hordes of shoppers shoving each other out of the way for discounted TVs, it’s become a make-or-break weekend for retailers. (We’ll save our opinions about this trend for a different type of blog.) So, now that the dust has settled on the bar- and restaurant- happy Thanksgiving Eve plus the retail trifecta of Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday, what was the end result?
Nationwide, sales from Black Friday and Small Business Saturday fell short of expectations, with the National Retail Federation citing an estimated 11 percent year-over-year decline. Did Westchester businesses fall in line with that trend? After speaking with a variety of local retailers and restaurants (both large and small), we found a mixed bag of results.
The snowstorm that hit the day before Thanksgiving kept some folks away from the Mamaroneck Ave bar strip on Wednesday night, but the turnout on one of the biggest party nights of the year was still solid. “We had great traffic,” says Joe Christ, manager of The Brazen Fox. “The turnout was not as big as past years, but it was still a really good crowd.” At Emma’s Ale House, owner Casey Egan estimates business was up about 10% from last year. “It’s always one of my best nights of the year,” he explains, pointing to a strong crowd of families, younger folks home from college, and “40-somethings who put the kids with a sitter and come out for a cocktail.”
For many retailers, the decision to open on Thanksgiving night spread the consumer spending a little thinner on Black Friday. Nevertheless, it was still a killer day for retail. At P.C. Richard & Son in Yonkers, slightly lower traffic than last year didn’t dampen overall spending, which manager Eddie (last name withheld) says was up from last year. “TVs were definitely the best selling item,” he reports.
Ditto at the Mount Kisco Target store, where a line of shoppers that snaked around the store snatched up 40″ HDTVs for $119. “We kept guests [that were waiting on line] happy by passing out Starbucks, granola bars, and poppers where 24 guests won Target gift cards,” says Store Team Leader Jesse Shapiro. (Shapiro is one of 914INC’s 2014 Wunderkinds—read about him here).
“Sales on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and the weekend aligned with our forecasts and our sales from last year. Popular items included TVs, $140 gift cards with the purchase of iPads, and 40% off apparel,” he adds.
Over at The Westchester in White Plains, J. Crew saw less traffic than last year, but revenues that were “about even with last year,” according to Store Manager Andrew Beaudoin. Even with less traffic, he says that the store still made its sales goals. “We also saw a lot of people using their J Crew credit cards, but we had few new applications.” Casual conversations with sales clerks at Apple and Gap Kids at The Westchester revealed similar Black Friday trends: good sales numbers, but overall slightly thinner traffic.
Small Business Saturday:
While big chains dominate the Black Friday shopping frenzy, Small Business Saturday is a time for Westchester mom-and-pops to shine. Though the event is just three years old, it is catching on. “Each year, we’ve see a distinct growth in customers who come out specifically to support small businesses. This year we saw a 12% increase in sales over last year,” reports Tara Mikolay, co-owner of Desires by Mikolay, a jewelry shop in Chappaqua. And Dawn-Marie Manwaring of Beehive Designer Collective in Mount Kisco reports this year’s Small Business Saturday was the best the store has had since opening. “We offered 20% off on both Friday and Saturday and we had good distribution between both days,” she says.
At Westchester Road Runner in White Plains, owner Andy Kimerling used Facebook and “tried to get the word out more than usual” about Small Business Saturday—a day which is much more successful for the store than Black Friday. Sales, however, “were pretty much the same as last year. No more than a few hundred dollars in either direction,” he notes. Over in Pleasantville, the Village Bookstore enlisted local authors to pitch participation in Small Business Saturday, and owner Roy Solomon reports that he has been especially aware of the effect of Small Business Saturday for the past two years.
One retailer singing a slightly different tune is upscale children’s boutique LOL Kids in Armonk, where Small Business Saturday coincided with the town’s annual Frosty Parade. Though the parade drew heavy foot traffic in town, people were focused on parade activities, and not doing much shopping, says LOL Kids owner Julia Rozenfeld. “We probably got less business on Saturday than we would have anywhere else—but we got a huge amount of exposure,” she explains.
Westchester-based e-tailers seem more united in their approval of this year’s Cyber Monday. “We did indeed see a boost in business on Cyber Monday. It tends to be our best day of the year in terms of sales, and this year—happily—was no exception,” reports Barbara Paulding, editorial director for White Plains-based publisherâ€¨ Peter Pauper Press. Bedford-based gift basket company Tasteful Treats & Treasures also fared well, thanks in large part to its free shipping offer. “Research shows the main reason for abandoned shopping carts online is shipping costs,” says owner Rose Colonna. With the free shipping deal, “sales were up 20% from last year’s Cyber Monday,” and up significantly from a typical day’s sales, she notes.
Back in Armonk, there was no virtual Frosty Parade to snow on LOL Kids’ online success. “Cyber Monday was a pleasant surprise for us,” says Rozenfeld. “We were advertising 40% off all of our online merchandise, and while last year there were no sales, this year we totaled about $1,200 which is good amount of profit for one day.”