By Danielle Schipani
One of the most anticipated times of the year for retailers is the Thanksgiving weekend. Many small businesses in the Two River area were excited to kick off their holiday season and some found that they had the most customers the day after Black Friday, in support of “Small Business Saturday.”
RiverCenter’s James Scavone said the weekend drew thousands to the Red Bank shopping district. “We’re hopeful it’s an indication of a highly successful holiday shopping season,” he said.
Laurie Potter, one of the owners of River Road Books in Fair Haven, said that Saturday was definitely the store’s most successful day of the weekend. She said that the business day started out slow but ended on a good note with a number of local, loyal customers coming out to support the store and take advantage of special sales between noon and 5 p.m. Across the board, Potter said that children’s books sold the best, as they make great gifts during the holiday season. Overall, the weekend was a strong way to start the store’s holiday shopping season.
Denise Zappoli, owner of Toymasters in Red Bank, said that while the busiest day of the weekend was Saturday. However, Zappoli found that overall, the busiest day of the week was actually Wednesday. She explained this was likely due to the fact that, “people see family members whom they do not usually see during the Thanksgiving weekend and they may not see them for the holidays. They then buy toys for the children they will be seeing during Thanksgiving,” she said.
One of the most popular buys for girls over the weekend was Puppy Surprise, which is a stuffed animal that includes three, four, or five puppies. The child doesn’t know how many puppies their stuffed animal will have until they open the box. Dolls and doll accessories were also a popular item for young girls and the shop found itself needing to re-stock the doll department Sunday and Monday. For boys, Lego toys and Carrera car toys were the most popular buys. Zappoli said she plans to enjoy the remainder of her holiday season and is appreciative of her customers and of her community.
Saturday was also the busiest day of the Black Friday Weekend for Michael Duru Clothiers in Shrewsbury. Michael Duru, one of the owners of the business, said that they had the most customers between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Accessories sold successfully and included socks, scarfs, gloves, travel wear, and bags. Duru said that warm weather has been a factor in sales this year and there has been a decrease in sales of sweaters and overcoats.
Michael Caliendo, manager of the Rook coffee in Red Bank said that Friday, Saturday and Sunday are usually their busiest days but this Friday and Saturday were busier then normal. He pointed out that the Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno’s presence helped small businesses in the area. “The Lieutenant Governor started her day here which brought a lot of people in and grabbed the attention of customers. It was also important that she showed support for small businesses like us who need those regular customers.”
Alan Placer, manager of Hobbymasters in Red Bank, said that they had more business all day during Black Friday than on small business Saturday. They recently had a major change to their website so they did not have many online customers but in store sales over the weekend were strong.
Websites often hurt small businesses, according to Placer, who said that people do not value quality as much anymore. Often, after the holidays, people come into Hobbymasters to have toys repaired that they bought online.
There are mixed feelings among store owners regarding the American Express promotion of small business Saturday. Zappoli claimed that the number of American Express users who came out to support Toymasters did not define the weekend’s success.
Potter said that the American Express small business promotions are effective because they promote small businesses with an advertising campaign.
For Duru, “There is no other major company that I know of who is helping small businesses in any way,” he said. “The reality that there is an effort is helpful because awareness is key,” he said.
Most owners agree that many customers often prefer to pay with credit or debit cards rather than cash. More than 151 million people shopped in stores or online, according to the National Retail Federation’s Thanksgiving Weekend Survey performed by Prosper Insights & Analytics. This number is far over the estimated 136 million who said they would over the holiday weekend.
Additionally, the NRF also determined that more young adults came out to shop over any other age group. More than half of young adults ages 18-24 and 25-34 decided to shop over the holiday weekend, according to the survey.
If you liked this story, you’ll love our newspaper. Click here to subscribe