Archived Story

Small business in the shadow of Black Friday?

Published 6:00am Saturday, November 21, 2009

Niles Daily Star

Consumers may be out this weekend to shop for friends, family and loved ones as the holidays get closer and closer, but by this time next weekend, those shoppers will be recovering from a day that is anything but leisurely shopping.

Actually, shopping next Friday will be more like a contact sport.

It’s Black Friday 2009 and consumers will no doubt be looking far and wide and fighting especially hard for deals on everything from appliances to electronics, movies and toys at what most big box stores will claim to be the best and lowest prices of the year.

While the commercial heavyweights prepare for bottom dollar deals and scores of anxious shoppers lining up outside their doors in the early morning hours, Main Street businesses have to figure out how to capitalize on the holiday shopping spirit as well.

Smaller, downtown area stores like those that line Main Street in Niles simply can’t compete with the size and scope of Black Friday events and sales at stores like Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy.

Instead, said Lisa Croteau, executive director of Niles Main Street, “it’s variety, it’s uniqueness, it’s extra service.”

Many stores put a heavy emphasis on Black Friday, just one day but still the biggest shopping day of the year.

For local businesses like Veni’s Sweet Shop, Majerek’s Newsstand, The Baker’s Needle and Sentiments, pulling in holiday revenue is a focus that takes place not just on one day but spans Thanksgiving to Christmas.

“There’s is more the whole season,” Croteau said.

Stores like Wal-Mart are already getting ready for next weekend, with the discount giant announcing it will have a wide variety of low priced items, the best deals to be found between 5 and 11 a.m.

Following Black Friday, Niles Main Street merchants will respond over the weekend of Nov. 28 with the official lighting of downtown, when stores will be open later and hope to appeal to those shoppers looking for something special and hoping to get a safe distance away from the hectic and chaotic crowds.

“They’re the place you go when you’re not quite sure what you want to get,” but have something special in mind, Croteau said.

She agreed there may be a perception on behalf of consumers that shopping locally can be more expensive but said that perception may not be entirely accurate.

For example, she added, shoppers can add up time and money saved, using less fuel to get right downtown and taking less time to get their shopping done and get home.

Meanwhile, she said prices at local stores like Your Kitchen Connection, Majerek’s, Sentiments and Color Me Christian are not always more expensive than others.

Color Me Christian and Majerek’s are alternatives to Borders, Barnes & Noble and even, Croteau said with the capabilities to order books for customers that might not be on the shelf.

Niles Styles and Sentiments offer unique fashions, she added, and shoppers can find everything from unique gifts to everyday items especially appreciated around the holidays like cupcake liners and turkey basters at Your Kitchen Connection.

And, she explained, the Main Street and Four Flags antique shops are ideal locations for one of a kind or unique gifts.

All eyes will be on retailers large and small this season as many wonder if Black Friday and the holiday shopping season will help give the retail industry a much needed rebound.

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