Local shops report strong start

Some Monadnock region retailers say holiday business solid on Friday and the weekend

  • Local storeowners don plaid the day after Thanksgiving, in an effort to encourage shoppers to buy local during the Monadnock Region's "Plaid Friday."<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Local storeowners don plaid the day after Thanksgiving, in an effort to encourage shoppers to buy local during the Monadnock Region's "Plaid Friday."

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

  • Local storeowners don plaid the day after Thanksgiving, in an effort to encourage shoppers to buy local during the Monadnock Region's "Plaid Friday."<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Local storeowners don plaid the day after Thanksgiving, in an effort to encourage shoppers to buy local during the Monadnock Region's "Plaid Friday."

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

  • Local storeowners don plaid the day after Thanksgiving, in an effort to encourage shoppers to buy local during the Monadnock Region's "Plaid Friday."<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Local storeowners don plaid the day after Thanksgiving, in an effort to encourage shoppers to buy local during the Monadnock Region's "Plaid Friday."

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

  • Local storeowners don plaid the day after Thanksgiving, in an effort to encourage shoppers to buy local during the Monadnock Region's "Plaid Friday."<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Local storeowners don plaid the day after Thanksgiving, in an effort to encourage shoppers to buy local during the Monadnock Region's "Plaid Friday."<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Local storeowners don plaid the day after Thanksgiving, in an effort to encourage shoppers to buy local during the Monadnock Region's "Plaid Friday."<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

Plaid Friday and Small Business Saturday got the holiday shopping season off to a solid start last weekend, according to several local owners of small businesses who were competing with the discounts, promotions and hoopla of the national retailers.

While nationwide retail sales on Black Friday itself dropped by almost 2 percent, consumers spent 3 percent more than last year over the entire four-day Thanksgiving weekend, according to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation. The decline in Black Friday sales is likely due to the fact that so many major retailers actually opened for business on Thanksgiving Day, drawing customers eager to be first in line.

To fight back, many local merchants promoted Plaid Friday as an alternative for shoppers on the day after Thanksgiving. And on Monday, when they’d had time to weigh the results, they were generally pleased.

“Over here, it was a great day,” said John Sepe of MindFull Books & Ephemera in Jaffrey, which was a photo hub for the local group promoting Plaid Friday. “We had a lot of people come in wearing plaid. Just about everybody wore plaid at our weekly jam.”

Sepe said business was better on Friday than it’s been in the past.

“We had a good day of sales,” Sepe said. “Notoriously, we’re very slow on the day after Thanksgiving. I think [Plaid Friday] is making a difference.”

“There were more people out, more dressed in plaid,” said Bill Littles of Steele’s Stationers in Peterborough, about Plaid Friday. “It was definitely a good day. We had 10 percent off for those wearing plaid. We had people showing up at 8:30 a.m., wearing plaid, with friends. They were shopping, too.”

Littles said the successful weekend made him optimistic for the rest of the shopping season.

“People seem to be aware about changing their shopping habits,” he said. “This area has always been very supportive.”

Willard Williams of the Toadstool Bookshops in Peterborough and Keene said the Plaid Friday concept seems to have caught on.

“I think we had more awareness than last year,” Williams said. “We were busier than last year. Of course, the weather was great. That makes a big difference.”

He said that although only a couple of customers mentioned Small Business Saturday, there were many who were wearing plaid on Friday.

“There definitely was a sense of the importance of shopping locally,” Williams said. “I think the awareness has gone up several notches.”

Jim Therriault of New England Everyday Goods in Peterborough appreciated the interest in Plaid Friday, although for him it didn’t translate into additional sales.

“People were definitely wearing plaid,” Therriault said. “There seems to be more awareness this year about shopping small. People are getting the message and acting on it, which is great.”

Overall, business was down a bit on the weekend, even on Plaid Friday, according to Therriault.

“But that’s been the trend for most of November,” he said. “I think all the hype about Cyber Monday may have made a bit of a dent. I’ve heard that from some of my neighbors as well.”

Cyber Monday refers to the Monday after Thanksgiving, when people returning to work after a long weekend may take advantage of fast Internet connections to do online holiday shopping.

Competition from the Internet is certainly a concern for local small business owners.

In his business, Williams said, that competition comes not just through the sale of physical books by online retailers, but also through e-books.

“We don’t do a lot of e-book business, but they are available through our website,” Williams said. “A lot of people have said they’d like to benefit local businesses when they buy an e-book.”

But he said that for stores like the Toadstool, the concentration is on the physical book and on being able to offer advice to shoppers during the holiday season.

“I read that Internet sales were up on Black Friday,” Sepe said. “That isn’t great for local shops. We’ve lost shops in Jaffrey and Peterborough. People have to be aware of what’s going on.”

Sepe said he didn’t hear much about Small Business Saturday, a national effort that hasn’t been heavily promoted in the Monadnock region. He said he was focusing on another national campaign, called Shift Your Shopping, that urges consumers to spend at least a portion of their holiday shopping budget at local businesses.

“It’s another way to build awareness,” Sepe said about Shift Your Shopping. “If you spend just 10 percent of what you plan to spend locally, it makes a huge difference.”

Therriault said that while November has been a bit disappointing, he’s expecting sales to pick up, especially since there are five full weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“We still have four weeks to go,” he said. “This year, Christmas is on a Tuesday. People have a full weekend to shop. That kind of changes the dynamic a bit. It will probably result in more shopping later this year. The final week leading up to Christmas is definitely the biggest for us.”

So he remains optimistic. “Overall, I’d say it was a solid weekend,” Therriault said. “I’m pleased with what we did. I think we’re going to have a pretty good season overall. It just takes a while to kick in.”

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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