Black Friday marks the start of the most wonderful time of the year for big retail merchants in the Two River area. Online sellers are eagerly anticipating Cyber Monday.
But small brick and mortar businesses are claiming Saturday for their own, and they will be competing for shoppers’ attention in different ways.
“Traditionally it’s a good sales day,” said Denise Zappoli, owner of Toymasters in Red Bank, an independent toy store. “People are very into the American Express Small Business Saturday. It does help sales, there’s a lot of social media about it. People can look up the list of participating stores in the area and my name is there,” Zappoli said.
The National Retail Federation’s annual survey found the average person celebrating Christmas, Kwanzaa and/or Hanukah will spend $804 this holiday season, up five percent over last year’s actual $767. Trends driving consumer confidence are declining unemployment, lower gas prices, resulting in higher rate of disposable income.
River Road Books, one of a handful of independent bookstores in Monmouth County, is hoping that some of those dollars will be spent in their book-lined shop in Fair Haven this season. To lure in lovers of literature, the shop will hold two childrens’ book author readings at 11 a.m. on Saturday. All weekend long they will give away a $10 gift certificate for every $50 purchased at the register.
Online book discounters pose a real threat, said co-owner Laurie Potter. She said she hopes that local people will spend a few extra dollars to support a neighborhood hub where the owners know every book on their shelves and have an interest in nurturing education and culture. “This is what makes your community a beautiful place to live in,” she said. “What if all these places closed up? It would affect the whole town.”
Behind the blue door at Junction Boutique on Leonardville Road in Belford, a crafters co-op featuring eclectic license plate art, driftwood sculptures and clocks made from old phonograph records, shoppers will be welcomed with random giveaways and a gift bag valued at $30 proffered every half hour. “We are the only gift store in Middletown, and Small Business Saturday is important to us,” said owner Chris Slater. “We’re like 24 mom and pop stores under one roof.” Their specialty is customer service and customization, something not easily replicated online, she said.
Michael Duru Clothiers in Shrewsbury wants to be neighborly on Thanksgiving weekend. Duru says his goal for the busy weekend is to offer some good companionship, good food, and to give back to those that have supported the shop specializing in made-to-measure suits.
On Black Friday, Duru will offer weary shoppers a place to take a break, with catered food all day from Broad Street neighbor Bagel Masters. “It’ll be a different atmosphere, a much more relaxed shopping environment instead of people rushing and knocking each other down. That’s not what we want to be about. As a small business owner, we need to stand for something other than that stuff,” Duru said.
At Hobbymasters of Red Bank, Thanksgiving sees a four-fold increase in sales of popular items like electric trains, robot kits, and model planes compared to a regular weekend, outside of December. As the days get closer to Christmas, the store’s sale volume increases even more.
“The online business is slowing down, we see more purchases in-store. Our online used to be really big, but Amazon has done more damage to our online business than it has to our store business,” explained Alan Placer, who said that both Black Friday and the Saturday after Thanksgiving are equally busy for the two-story specialty store on White Street.
– By Madelynne Kislovsky and Christina Johnson
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