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Monday, November 26, 2012

Mom & Pops: Sandy Cast Pall on Small Business Saturday

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By James Lomuscio

Sandwiched between Black Friday and today’s Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday pays homage to local retailers, the Davids amidst the onslaught of Goliath chains and big box stores. According to Westport Mom & Pop establishments, the concept has not only worked, but caught on over the past decade, Image
Chic Jolie was open and participated in Small Business Saturday, but storm-damaged Crumbs across the street was closed. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

But this year, with some exceptions, was far from stellar, retailers say, noting Saturday’s sales were a shadow of what they were a year ago. Some blame Storm Sandy for getting the holiday shopping season off to a shaky start. Others say an uncertain economy is making consumers more tight fisted.

“Christmas is definitely off to a slow start because of Sandy and probably appropriately so,” said Steve Silver, the third generation owner of Silver of Westport, Inc., a Post Road East specialty gift store in town since 1951.“People have to look after their families and their homes. They have a whole different set of priorities.

“We’d love to see them come in, and we’re ready when they are,” added Silver, saying he is optimistic that as Christmas approaches and memories of Sandy fade, sales will pick up.

At Chic Jolie, a women’s clothing and accessory shop at 24 Taylor Place, owner Alla Ionescu cited a similar lackluster Saturday. Most of the shoppers, she said, were browsing college students home for Thanksgiving break, “not the major clientele.”

“It was definitely less than we did last year,” Ionescu said. “I think number one was sandy because people are definitely recovering. I think the holidays came too fast, and people are not in the holiday spirit shop, especially with a lot of shops closing down for a variety of reasons.

“I’m across the street from Crumb’s which is still closed it hasn’t reopened since the storm,” she added. “I think people are still down. It’s a major factor.”

Like Silver, Ionescu said she hopes the seasonal business will rebound

“You have to be optimistic,” she said. “We’ve been here for nine years, so we have to be optimistic.”

Chocolatier Cocoa Michelle at 54 Railroad Place found Small Business Saturday uneventful, too, despite an array of chocolate and coffee gifts.

“I think it’s good, and I love the idea, but I just don’t think that this Saturday was exceptional,” said Michael Hedges, manager. “We were not as busy as we thought we’d be.

“The weather was beautiful, so you can’t blame the weather, or maybe it was too nice,” he added. “I think with Sandy, it put everybody in a different mind frame from other years. Maybe with Christmas approaching, more people will get in the mood, but you just can’t tell.”

Rick Falcone, owner of Art’s Deli on Post Road West, said Saturday was slow, but he expected it to be with “most people still eating Thanksgiving leftovers”.

“My time is now, as we’re just starting to work on holiday baskets,” Falcone said. “The holiday spirit should be kicking in soon, and I’m hoping people realize that the little guy needs help this year, and that they should be shopping these little stores.”

One retailer, however, found that Small Business Saturday with a little tweaking paid off.

ASF Sports & Outdoors at 1554-1560 Post Road East went beyond Small Business Saturday to launch Small Business Weekend, said Colleen Kennedy. The store also coupled the weekend with a marketing campaign and 25 percent discount coupons.

“We got a lot of local support,” Kennedy said about the store in Wesport since 1986.“I will tell you I was on the floor, and we were busy.

“We appreciate people supporting local businesses,” she added. “We’re happy we’re entrenched in Westport. We’re hoping for some cold weather, and we think Christmas will look great.”

Posted 11/26/12 at 11:46 PM


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