December 1, 2013

Local shoppers out in force

Chris Fasolino

PLATTSBURGH — Call it point and counterpoint. Black Friday, known for drawing crowds of shoppers to national-chain retail stores, is followed by Small Business Saturday, which aims to promote local establishments. 

Both got reactions in the North Country.

Black Friday

“We were gearing up for a strong event,” said Kyle Siskavich, store Leader at JC Penney in the Champlain Centre mall, regarding Friday’s day of shopping. Siskavich said that it was the first year that the store was open for 25 hours — from 8 p.m. Thursday to 9 p.m. Friday. 

“We had a lot of prep, and we had to make sure we were properly staffed for the holiday shopping.”    

On Black Friday, home goods and small electronics were popular, Siskavich said.

“It went well. We had nice foot traffic, more so than last year, and nice traffic from our Canadian customers.”    

Such cross-border shopping was also noted by Canadian Television News.

“We found out when the stores were opening, and we turned up and saw how many Quebecers were there,” said CTV reporter Annie DeMelt.

“We randomly met people, and there were quite a few of them. Black Friday keeps getting bigger here (in Quebec), but it is not anywhere close to the U.S. or even the other provinces.”

 DeMelt said that her impression is that people compare fliers from Canadian stores and those in the United States, and Plattsburgh, she observed, “is so close to the border.”    

Some Plattsburgh restaurants also saw an increase in traffic on Friday as shoppers stopped to eat.

“People really worked up an appetite,” said Liz Cummings, owner of Adirondack Michigans Plus. “We had a nice influx, and quite a few of our Canadian visitors were here.”

Cummings added with a smile that many people were ordering turkey dinners.

“They were still in turkey mode.”

Small Business Saturday

Frigid temperatures were no help to Small Business Saturday. 

“The weather has an effect,” said Melanie Gomes, co-owner of Plattsburgh Flower Market.    

Gomes said her business has been helped by “people getting a jump start on buying holiday decorations compared to other years.”

Such business, however, was not related to Small Business Saturday. However, she hopes things will pick up.

“When people shop local, the money stays local and benefits the community.”

Gomes added that she feels Small Business Saturday is being highlighted more this year through national advertising.

“This year it’s promoted more and driven more by the media.”   

Marcy Miller of Pure Placid said of Small Business Saturday: “It’s going okay today, but it’s a little cold outside.”    

However, the Lake Placid shop, which specializes in locally made bath and body products that use Lake Placid water, received a boost, perhaps unexpectedly, on Black Friday.

“We were pretty busy,” Miller said. “It’s not just at the big crazy stores.”  

In downtown Plattsburgh, a new business was opening on Small Business Saturday. A Beautiful Mess, a gift and home shop, opened its Margaret Street doors.

Owner Carolyn Tetreault said of her shop’s opening that day, “I knew I wouldn’t be able to open until then, and I thought it would be appropriate.”

The results seemed to be good. She described opening day traffic as “continuous.”

At Plattsburgh’s Maui North, Repair Manager Chris Sharrow noted that business was “kind of slow so far,” but added good-humouredly, “I think all our customers are out at the mountain, which is a good thing. This time of year is good for us anyway.”   

Sharrow hopes to see Small Business Saturday grow, “because shopping locally is what keeps everybody in business, what keeps the town running. If everybody started shopping on the Internet, we’d just shut down.”    

Norma Smith, who works at Twigs gallery in Lake Placid, expressed similar sentiments.

“It helps the local economy so much,” she said. “Instead of going to the big box stores, give us a chance.”