11/28/10 — Locally owned shops see good holiday start

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Locally owned shops see good holiday start

By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 28, 2010 1:50 AM

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Joyce Edwards, owner of Plantation Shoppe Gifts & Antiques in Cobblestone Place, fills out a sales receipt in her store during the first weekend of holiday shopping. Edwards said she is pleased with business so far this holiday season but that it could always be busier.

Jacqueline McKinnie of Rose Hill wasn't swayed by all of the hoopla surrounding Black Friday shopping frenzy.

"I knew where I was coming and it didn't bother me," she said Saturday afternoon as she paid for her new shoes at Family Shoe Store on Walnut Street. "I didn't get in those crowds. I knew where I was coming -- right here to get my shoes and my good service.

"I have been coming quite a few years. They will find my shoes, fit them on my feet and make sure I get the right size and that they are a good fit. I just love it. I drive that 60 miles to get them."

Ms. McKinnie is the kind of customer that locally owned stores cater to and depend on to help them be successful.

And for the most part, local merchants contacted by the News-Argus on Saturday, proclaimed as "Small Business Saturday" by Gov. Beverly Perdue, were buoyed by steady sales on Friday and Saturday and are optimistic about the days to come.

"I think sales have gone pretty good so far," said Family Shoe Store's Gene Reich. "We have a new line of Dankso in and we specialize in slim, narrow and hard-to-fit-shoes. We have a big selection of steel-toed, work boots, casual and dress shoes.

"We have a lot of out-of-town people come in every day, making a special effort to come down here and shop with us."

The specialty shoes and sizes make a "big difference," plus the hands-on service, he said.

The larger stores don't offer that, he said.

"You wait on yourself out there," Reich said.

"We had a real good day yesterday (Friday)," said Janice Bedford, wife of store owner Phil Bedford. "We were opened from 9 a.m. until about 5:30 p.m. They weren't standing in line down here, but we did have a good day."

Dankso shoes are much sought after for Christmas gifts and are "highly recommended" by doctors since the shoes are supposed to help with back and posture issues, she said.

"Today (Saturday) we had a good morning and it slowed down a little around the lunch hour," she said. "But people have been steadily coming in."

Mrs. Bedford said she was pleased with Friday sales, particularly since the store is downtown and not at a mall.

"Our customers make a special effort because the majority yesterday were probably from out of town," she said. "We have a lot of repeat customers from Wilson, Rocky Mount, New Bern, Kinston, Fayetteville. It is amazing to me how many customers are from out of town."

Mrs. Bedford said she is hopeful Friday's and Saturday's sales are a good sign for the rest of the month.

Margaret Ann Parvin, owner of Especially for You in Mount Olive, said that people go shopping at crazy hours in the morning on Black Friday only to find that items are sold out.

Like the other store owners who were interviewed, Mrs. Parvin said her store depends on stocking unique items and customer service, and not gimmicks like early openings.

"We had a good day yesterday," she said. "It started off kind of slow because I am sure everybody was shopping the advertised big deals at the big stores. We picked up late morning and it was steady throughout the day. Our numbers were up compared to last year, and by the end of today (Saturday) hopefully we will be a little ahead.

"We are very well pleased. We were staffed and we had advertised. We sent out mailers and our customers responded and that is good. It is not like a mall situation where you just have tons and tons of traffic, but the people came to buy, which is important. We are just sure and steady, no knocking the doors down. It is good to be sure and steady. People are shopping for special deals and they are shopping price. We are aware of that and we are trying to accommodate that."

Everybody who came, bought something, she said.

"They can find something here because we have a lot of variety. Vera Bradley was a big sale for us and people come to see us because we are the only ones (in Mount Olive) who have it," she said. "Buy one get something free. We sold ornaments and Christmas wreaths because people are starting to decorate. Actually over the next 10 days we will pick up on the gift-giving part.

The store also is known for its free gift wrapping, something people like, she said.

At the Plantation Shoppe on Spence Avenue, it was pretty much business as usual, said Joyce Edwards.

She said that Friday sales had not gone "as well as we would like. They were all at the mall, I guess."

However, she said she had seen worse over the years.

She said that collegiate-related items and the Department 56 collections of villages remain popular items.

"We have done well with those this year," she said. "Today (Saturday) has been good. We have done pretty good today."

Ms. Edwards is hopeful sales will improve.

"People will buy the big things at the mall and then they come back to fill in the cracks with the finer small stuff from small shops they can't find anywhere else," she said. "We try to buy things that you cannot find anywhere else."

Jim and Faye Ward, owners of Just for You on East Ash Street, agreed.

"We have had a very good weekend," Mrs. Ward said. "We did a promotion yesterday on Vera Bradley when they purchased $100 of Vera Bradley they got a Vera Bradley tote bag free and we gave them all away during the day. We had good traffic and the sales were very good with Vera Bradley and our Christmas items.

"I think the customer service that we offer, the free gift-wrapping that the girls have been wrapping non-stop for two days, I think that kind of thing, the personal attention they are looking for and products you don't find -- things like my husband personalizes stationary and that kind of thing you can not get that in the big box stores."

Mrs. Ward said the weekend turnout had been about what had been expected.

"Black Friday weekend is not our best weekend of the year," she said. "We anticipate bigger weekends in December. But it was a good weekend. I think people are just really getting in the (shopping) mood now that Thanksgiving is over. They are realizing how fast Christmas is coming and they are out to try and quickly do their Christmas shopping. They will be focusing more on it in the next two weeks."

Ward said shoppers are trying to find a store, like Just for You, where they can "get a lot of different items for a lot of different people at one place without the hustle and bustle without the many aisles and shopping carts."

Also, there is plenty of parking right in front of the store, he said.

"It has been a good year and we just hope that people will shop local and buy things in the store that is here and not order online," Ward said. 'Get it in and it be the wrong size wrong color, or whatever. There is no substitute for touching and feeling and trying it on, and taking that purse and putting it over your shoulder and looking at it in the mirror at how it is going to look to other people."

There are no gimmicks, no early opening, he said. They are not needed, he said.

"Some days people may come and look and you may not hear the cash register go cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching as much as you would like, but they will be back because they have been out just looking," Ward said. "They formulated in their mind what the want to come back and get."