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HOLIDAY SHOPPING

A movement toward local

OPENING WEEKEND: Many smaller retailers saw lots of traffic

  • While visiting family in Mason and browsing for holiday gifts in Peterborough, Cassandra Hogl of Bellingham, Wash., enjoys a cup of free cider at Joseph's Coat on the Monday following Thanksgiving during "Cider Monday," a shop-local effort started by the Toadstool Bookshop this year.
  • Tina Kalke, sporting a plaid scarf, and Tina Kalke shop at Bowerbird and Friends in Peterborough on Friday morning.
  • Bevin Buffum of Wilton, left, Tina Kalke of Spofford and Robin Brady of Hancock shop at Bowerbird and Friends in Peterborough on Plaid Friday.
  • Robin Brady, center, sports a plaid shirt at Bowerbird and Friends while shopping with her family on Friday morning.
  • Customers purchase books at Toadstool Bookshop during Plaid Friday.

Each year, there is a growing awareness of the importance of shoppers spending some of their cash at their local stores. The weekend following Thanksgiving, particularly the day after, are traditionally the biggest shopping days of the season. While many eager shoppers were carefully strategising their Black Friday shopping itinerary at the national big-box and department stores, in order to take advantage of the sales, others chose to stay closer to home, participating in buy-local efforts such as Plaid Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cider Monday.

Plaid Friday, a national shop-local effort, which has pockets of participants across the country, has become a centerpiece of the Monadnock Buy Local effort to keep retail dollars in the region. Shoppers and store owners alike were encouraged to don plaid and stick to small businesses in their area for holiday shopping this past weekend.

Willard Williams, owner of Toadstool Bookshop in Peterborough, said he’s seen a growing awareness of Plaid Friday, since Peterborough and Jaffrey first started to participate in the effort a handful of years ago . Now, he said, he can expect two or even three times the amount of business he sees in a normal day on Plaid Friday. This year was looking to meet that target, as well, he said Friday, with a high customer volume that morning.

“I think it really helps to draw people’s attention to the shop local effort,” he said in an interview in the Toadstool Bookshop on Friday. The Toadstool, which served as one of the hubs for Plaid Friday was selling “Plaid Friday” buttons in the weeks leading up to the event.

Peterborough was buzzing with shoppers on Friday morning as a result. Bowerbird & Friends in Peterborough had a bustling clientele late Friday morning. Robin Brady, a shopper from Hancock, said she was doing as much of her shopping locally this year as possible. “It’s more intimate, people are more kind, and you feel like you’re helping your community,” she said.

Two other Bowerbird shoppers, Bevin Buffum of Wilton and Tina Kalke of Spofford, agreed. The two avoided the Black Friday deals at big commercial box stores, in order to hit the local stores this year, said Buffum, stopping at local antique shops, such as the Black Swan, Twin Elms and Bowerbird.

“We’d not have gone shopping somewhere else today,” said Buffum. “We’re avoiding the crowds. This is just the right amount of busyness.” She added that other than avoiding the shopping hoard, she also appreciated the uniqueness of the gifts she finds while shopping locally.

Nina Anderson of Dublin, another shopper at Bowerbird on Friday, also said she prefers hitting the smaller stores to the big commercial ones on the day after Thanksgiving. “I’m a big supporter of shop local,” she said, adding that probably about 50 percent of her holiday spending is done locally. “It’s a very pleasant experience verses the mall, which is a horror show.”

Shelley Osborne, an employee at Joseph’s Coat in Peterborough, said on Monday that doing two or three times the normal business on the two days following the day after Thanksgiving is normal for a retail business, simply because it’s the two busiest days of a retailer’s year. Though she classified business at Joseph’s Coat as “Way past a normal day,” on both Friday and Saturday of last week, the store did not yet have numbers tallied as to whether this year was beyond previous Plaid Fridays. However, she said there has been a growing interest in buying local, fueled by efforts like Plaid Friday.

“I think it’s been a growing, gradual awareness,” she said.

Jaffrey, which also participates in Plaid Friday, also saw a boost, according to some store owners. Kari Lindstrom, the owner of The Melamine Cup in Jaffrey, said business was booming last week at the furniture store. She saw increases both on Plaid Friday and Saturday, she said. On Friday, Lindstrom held a sale, in which customers at checkout picked an ornament with a hidden designated discount that offered a discount between 10 and 50 percent.

“They were equally crazy, probably the best two days I’ve ever had,” said Lindstrom in a phone interview Monday. “My business was through the roof.”

Normally, the store is only open three days a week, Thursday through Saturday. Even though the store closed Thursday for Thanksgiving, she still earned double what she does in a normal week. She had more than 200 customers over the two-day period, when between 50 and 70 is a more usual count.

Just outside the Monadnock Buy Local footprint — which encompasses Peterborough, Jaffrey, Dublin, Harrisville, Walpole and Keene— other store owners said they are relying more on the effects of Small Business Saturday, a national effort to shift a portion of shoppers’ purchases to local stores. Richard Putnam, the owner of Putnam’s Clothing in Wilton, said he was participating in an American Express promotion, in which cardholders could earn a $10 credit by shopping in his store and using their card there on Saturday. But really, he said, he doesn’t see much of a boost the weekend following Thanksgiving.

“Our big portion is usually the week before Christmas,” he said. “I don’t look for a big push until we get closer to the end of December. People do mention the shop local and shop small, but I’m afraid it hasn’t made too much of a stir.”

Diane Tenaglia, the owner of Accents with Style, a gift shop in Wilton, said she was actually expecting a slow day, during an interview at her shop on the day following Thanksgiving. She, too, was anticipating some extra shoppers on Saturday, however. In her more than three years of running the shop, she said she’s noticed some of the people who participate in Small Business Saturday are people back in their hometowns visiting for the holidays. “It seems to be a lot of people wanting to do business in their home communities,” she said. “People are always going to run out to the big stores on Black Friday. It’s after the fact, when you want to buy the special gift, that you shop local.”

Doug Nelson, the owner of Nelson’s Candy in Wilton, said his business relies on holidays — the big three being Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter — to stay viable. He’s always seen a busy day on Black Friday, he noted, just because candy is a popular holiday gift, and people are out doing their shopping on that day.

This year, several Peterborough stores were asking shoppers to eschew the shopping day that’s become known as Cyber Monday, when retailers offer online deals as an alternative to Black Friday shopping. Instead, stores including the Toadstool Bookshop, Steele’s Stationers and Joseph’s Coat provided free cider, asking shoppers to participate in “Cider Monday” as a shop-local alternative. Cider Monday was started by Toadstool’s Willard Williams this year, but has caught on with more than just local stores, with other independent booksellers in New Hampshire and Vermont also picking up the idea. “We’re trying to encourage people to go out to a real store, instead of shopping online,” Williams explained.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ex. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on twitter @AshleySaari.

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