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Business owners hopeful for strong holiday shopping season

  • Amy Noel owns the shop Alice Blue in Peterborough. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Amy Noel owns the shop Alice Blue in Peterborough. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Amy Noel owns the shop Alice Blue in Peterborough. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 12/1/2020 1:02:49 PM

Local retailers are unsure of what to expect from the holiday shopping season, but one thing is for sure – it will be a year unlike any other.

With coronavirus cases continuing to climb in the Granite State, business owners have been left wondering what the comfort level will be for those who traditionally shop in person. And with budgets even tighter due to the loss of jobs and reduced incomes for employees in many business sectors, even if consumers do decide to shop in store, the question remains: how much will they be willing to spend?

Add in the statewide mask mandate that went into effect on Nov. 19 and it’s a recipe for a down holiday season, one that many retailers need in order to make up for so much lost revenue during the shutdown earlier in the year and the slow return of consumer confidence.

Amy Noel, owner of Alice Blue in Peterborough, thought things had turned the corner when September shopping was up. But that was followed by an October that “fell short quite a bit,” and November wasn’t anything to write home about either.

“We’re seeing a pretty drastic cut,” Noel said. “Normally it’s summer, September and October are usually very good and Christmas is the icing on the cake.”

But anticipating what the holiday shopping will bring Noel said is “a very hard call.”

“I think people are very apprehensive,” she said.

To entice people after reopening in June, Noel offered a big sale.

“I realized nobody was coming out,” she said. “And at that point we were really wondering if we were going to make it.”

And that thought process hasn’t changed much.

“We don’t know what to expect,” Noel said. “I’m just trying to figure out how we can survive.”

She is currently having a website built to better provide information to customers and is working through ideas around deals and offering curbside pickup for orders to increase business.

Michalene Kosinski has owned Antiques and Collectibles Mall of New England in Greenville for 18 years and expects a shift in buying philosophy this year.

“We expect people will buy smaller items that can be shipped,” Kosinski said, due to the fact that a lot of people won’t be getting together for the holidays.

With the pandemic causing people to reevaluate the way they view the importance of family, Kosinski said “I don’t think a lot of people are going to be focusing on gifts this year. People are getting down to the basics. They’re realizing how much family means.” So when gifts are bought, she expects it be something special, with more meaning.

In an effort to entice people to shop in the close to 10,000-square-foot store, Kosinski said everything is priced at 50 percent when paying with cash or check.

“It makes it affordable for the customers to come in and get something, while still putting food on the table,” she said. “It allows us to support the local community.”

Since the downtown Greenville location is more of a destination, Kosinski said a lot of time business in the winter months comes down to the weather, but understands there are other factors that will play a part this year.

“It definitely won’t be the same,” she said.

Having so much space, Kosinski said her business is perfect for social distancing, something she believes people want when shopping in person.

“I think a lot of customers are looking for that,” she said. “And they can feel safe here because there are a lot of people that are itching to go out, but are hesitant to go into a congested place.”

Since reopening in the middle of July, Kosinski said they have required masks so the new mask mandate won’t be anything that will affect the way they operate.

Bill Littles, who owns Steele’s Stationers in Peterborough with his wife Elizabeth, said he is hopeful for a good holiday shopping season, but one that is not too busy.

Littles said that the last quarter of the year typically represents about two-thirds of the year’s business with December representing about two-thirds of that final quarter.

“You’re talking about some stores doing two to three months worth of business in one month,” he said.

And while it’s been a tough year, Littles is trying to be cautious about having too many people in the store at one.

“In years past we could have had lines at each register 10 to 12 deep and people in the store,” he said. “But do I want 15 to 20 people standing in line buying stuff? Do we want crowds in the store? Do we want to endanger ourselves to get money?”

With the uncertainty of people’s comfort levels and if another shutdown could come in the next few weeks if COVID-19 cases continue to climb, Littles said he didn’t stock up on inventory like he has in the past.

“I think everyone is hoping it will be a decent end of year,” he said. “But in my opinion, it’s worth being careful about. On one hand you want it to be busy, but on the other do you really want it to be that busy?”

Littles said that people have already been in shopping for the holidays which has “been nice to see.”

“But I don’t think it’s going to be what it was,” he said. Littles anticipates people will be selective when they shop, looking for off times to come in.

“Any person at this point is going to be concerned about too many people being around,” he said.

Marie Fortier, owner of Here Today Emporium in Wilton, is also not quite sure what to expect.

“I think it’s an unknown right now,” she said. “It’s really so different.”

The holiday season is her busiest of the year, but if the previous months are any indication, it will be a down year.

“It’s just getting people to come in,” she said, citing that the health of the business is a concern.

“But I’m optimistic. You have to keep hope and see what happens,” Fortier said.

She hopes the advantages found in the traditional way of shopping will bring people out.

“People like the experience of coming into my shop,” Fortier said. “The experience of seeing something in person.”

With the addition of new businesses on Main Street, Fortier see the potential for drawing more people to the downtown area.

“I’m just optimistic. I guess I’m hopeful it will be (a good year),” Fortier said.

She will expand her hours after Thanksgiving to include Thursday and will likely open more during the week as the holidays draw closer.

And with five rooms for people to browse, she doesn’t see any problem with social distancing.

“There’s probably never more than six people in the store and with five rooms,  there’s really plenty of room,” Fortier said.


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