Downtown Retailers Have High Hopes for Black Friday & Holiday Season
The busiest shopping day of the year, Black Friday, is expected to give Westfield businesses a big boost
As Black Friday fast approaches, retailers in Downtown Westfield are hoping for a big sales boost into the holiday season.
"People have to be a lot more creative about how they reach consumers than ever before,” said Sherry Cronin, executive director of the Downtown Westfield Corporation.
Cronin said stores like Bath Junkie, 221 North Avenue East, are cross-promoting to help each other out. She said the month-old store had an open house and served goods from Bovella’s Pastry Shoppe, 101 East Broad Street.
And Cronin said the DWC is also doing its part to help boost business. “We’ve tried to support retailers with additional promotional efforts this year.”
Such promotional efforts include a Welcome Home to Westfield calendar of events, available on the DWC website, www.westfieldtoday.com, to be distributed this week.
The Westfield Today newsletter can also be found on the site. It is “chock full of events and promotions that the stores give us,” said Cronin. “You can see how engaged many of our retailers are for people to try their stores.”
The Westfield Shopping & Dining Guide, meant to draw people to downtown Westfield,” came out a few days earlier this year to help boost business. “We timed it so it came out in Sunday's paper …it usually comes out on a Thursday,” said Cronin. “That’s even better coverage for us.” Eighty-thousand copies were distributed.
Another publication, Suburban Westfield, will come out Wednesday in Suburban News and The Star Ledger.
Cronin said she’s seen more participation among business owners to spread the word about their stores. “All of the national news is saying that while consumers are cautious, they’re all looking for bargains and retailers have obliged them with those,” said Cronin. “There are lots more promotions and coupons.”
And while this weekend tends to draw a lot of business for many retailers, for many it’s a struggle to stay afloat. “Clearly we’ve had more vacancies than we’ve had in the past,” said Cronin.
“It used to be that Christmas either made you or broke you. I’m not sure that’s the way retail works anymore.”
Still, business owners seem to have high hopes this season, beginning with Black Friday. Owner of Funk & Standard, Patti Siciliano, said Black Friday is usually a huge business boost for her store. “No question. Unequivocally.”
Siciliano, who just relocated her store from East Broad Street to a smaller location at 111 Central Avenue, said the key is to stock the shelves. “We really just stock up and that’s the most important thing that we do, make sure we’re chock full of good merchandise.”
“We try to strike the balance between the coolness of Urban Outfitters and the cost effectiveness of Ikea.” She said business usually takes off the few days before Thanksgiving and through the holiday season.
The store specializes in “great, unique gifts,” said Siciliano. “We always do great with our “Uglydolls” and we have our own private label that does really well.”
Siciliano said her wish for this holiday season is simple, “an avalanche of cash flow.” She said “every year as a retailer, an independent retailer, it’s a new day. You’re back to playing on an even playing field and all the bills are paid. You have the time to be creative because you’re not worried about certain things.”
Siciliano said another holiday benefit to customers …right after Thanksgiving, they’ll be able to shop off of her website, www.funkandstandard.com.
The owner of The Farmhouse Store, 221 East Broad Street, said this year’s holiday hustle started early. “We usually don’t put Christmas stuff out until after Thanksgiving,” said Ed Menapace. “This year people were asking.”
“We actually found last year, at the start of the recession, that people were looking for a lot of 10, 20 and 30 dollar gifts,” he added. “We were really lucky because that’s how we bought. It was such a huge success.”
And while Menapace said his store is not “promotional,” he’s already optimistic for the seasonal rush. “People come to us because we don’t sell what anyone else sells,” he said, adding “if the past two weeks have been any indication,” this year is looking promising.
Manager of Thinka Dinka, Paul Eltringham, agrees that the holidays are already looking up this year. “We’re anticipating a much better year.”
“We load up on things,” he said, adding the store, which is three years old, is running promotions in the local circulars. He said the “animal rubber bands” are already “blowing the numbers out of the water.”
Eltringham said since April, the store has been “doing pretty well.” He added that toys usually sell later into the holiday season.
“People around here have always been very generous to us. We had a good Christmas last year,” he said, noting that from Black Friday through Christmas is a busy time for the store.
Eltringham said free gift wrapping also brings customers in the door. Customers “don’t have time. We take that (burden) away from them.”
And while Castle Bootery, 52 Elm Street, often gets a boost around this time of year, according to owner Eric Graff there are other factors. “It depends on the weather with our business.”
He said shoppers go for the “big bargains,” like electronics, first, and shoes second. “We might get a later hit at the end of the day.” Ugg products, said Graff, are popular gifts because they are “more of a pricey item.”
Graff said while he advertises all year, he runs a 15-percent customer appreciation promotion through December and sets up sales tables. “We do value all of our customers. We’re trying to give back to our community.”
And while “everyone’s been affected by the recession,” he said it’s a team effort. “You still need the truck driver to deliver the shoes to feed their family too.”
“We’re rolling along,” he said, “just trying to do our part.”
And Cronin said the DWC is also trying to do its part to lure customers downtown.
The downtown agency and Lord & Taylor, 609 North Ave, are sponsoring “Photos with Santa & Mrs. Claus” Friday and Saturday from 1 to 7 pm and Sunday from 1 to 5 pm at the store. Customers receive a free 5x7 portrait when they donate two cans of non-perishable food items for the Knights of Columbus Food Drive. Lord & Taylor also does “Friends & Family” promotions all weekend long.
And as the wreaths and lights are raised around town, so is the hope that the economic “doom and gloom” will be lifted. “I think things are very encouraging,” said Cronin.
She said in the last month, she’s received more calls than usual from people looking for permanent retail space. She said she’s hopeful this holiday season.
“The town really starting to come alive with that holiday sense,” she said. “It’s the most important thing we’re doing right now.”
Some other promotions for Black Friday and the upcoming season include:
Ann Taylor, 167 East Broad Street, will offer extended hours, from 7 am until 8 pm, Friday.
Esprit, 151 East Broad Street, is offering 40 to 50 percent off through Sunday.
Bittersweet Designs, 212 Lenox Avenue, is running “Go Green and Save Green” on Friday. The first 50 customers will receive a free reusable tote, and save $20 with every $100 purchase.
Lucky Brand Jeans, 253 East Broad Street, is offering “Great Holiday Gifts Under $35” through December 27th.
Scott’s Shoes, 109 Quimby Street, has Hunter Original Welly Boots in stock through December 1st.
Evalyn Dunn’s Gallery, 549 South Avenue West, is offering “Free Gifts for the Holidays,” through December 31st.
Trader Joe’s, 155 Elm Street, is offering extended hours, 8 am to 9 pm.
Several eateries are offering traditional holiday foods, including Robert Treat Delicatessen, 113 Quimby Street, Clyne & Murphy,439 South Avenue W, Xocolatz Restaurant & Grill, 13 Elm Street and 16 Prospect Wine Bar & Bistro, 16 Prospect Street.
Westfield is also offering complimentary on street parking from December 19 to January 1.