Black Friday still a big day for local retailers
Though it has been tough for the retail sector amid the COVID-19 pandemic and even prior due to online shopping, many small, local retail businesses experienced successful Black Fridays or Small Business Saturdays over the weekend.
Most retailers on State Street who spoke to the News-Press on Monday reported that most of the post-Thanksgiving shopping their stores received was concentrated in one particular day instead of spread between days.
Antique Alley owner Alan Howard remarked that whereas Black Friday is a big deal for the likes of department stores and brand name outlets, for his antique shop the day after Thanksgiving is usually a slow business day, similar to any other Friday during the year. This was also the case this year.
On Saturday, however, Mr. Howard saw a surge of customers, many who were from out of town. Many of those out-of-towners were also returning customers who made it a point to stop by during their stay in Santa Barbara. Despite pandemic conditions, Mr. Howard said this Saturday after Thanksgiving was likely more lucrative than last year’s. He said that this could possibly be due to Macy’s and Nordstrom, in prior years a big draw post-Thanksgiving, closing their local stores.
He recalled, “Now that they were gone, I saw an uptick in shoppers to the small businesses in our neighborhood, and especially on Saturday, it was just booming out there.”
Also, he thinks people are hungry for social interaction amid COVID-19 restrictions.
“I don’t think that online took away from the need for people to socialize during the shopping experience,” he said.
Several business owners told the News-Press that many of the shoppers they received weren’t Santa Barbara residents. Sophia Tolle, who owns the Morro Bay-based boutique Poppy and opened a second location on State Street in June, told the News-Press that her newer store had many customers from Los Angeles and San Diego during a busy Black Friday. Saturday was less busy and business at the boutique slowed even more on Sunday.
Given pandemic conditions, Ms. Tolle didn’t expect Black Friday to be as busy as it turned out to be.
“We were expecting it to be a more mellow, easy-going day, but it wasn’t. People were out and about, so that was good,” she said.
Asher Market owner Ashley Hayes said many of her customers were from Orange County and Los Angeles, with a few from San Francisco. For her store, Black Friday was successful in terms of both in-store and online sales. This was followed by an unexpectedly slow Saturday.
“After Friday was such a busy day in the store and online, I kind of thought Saturday would match it, and when it was kind of slow, I was kind of surprised,” she said.
Despite this, Ms. Hayes was the only State Street store owner who said the Sunday after Thanksgiving was a successful business day.
For most State Street retail shops, Sunday was the slow day. This was the case for The Closet Trading Company, according to store assistant manager Stella Trapin. Between the two busier days, Ms. Trapin said the consignment shop had business comparable to last year’s.
For Sunglass Brands International, Black Friday was very busy and was followed by two days of tapering sales. According to the owner, who just gave his first name, Minesh, the store did a special Black Friday sale that lasts for a week. Nevertheless, customers who went to the store after Friday just looked at sunglasses and weren’t what Minesh called “true shoppers.” While this year’s Black Friday at Sunglass Brands International’s was stronger than last year’s, the store usually has high sales the Saturday after Thanksgiving, which didn’t materialize this time around.
“Usually you get a strong Saturday, and that Saturday wasn’t strong at all,” he said.
Hemp clothing store owner Marcel Hemp also made a lot of sales on Black Friday, followed by fewer sales on Saturday. According to the shop’s namesake and owner Marcel Monsivais, whether Black Friday is more successful than Small Business Saturday or vice versa varies from year to year.
“We’ve been here a little over 31 years, and it’s hit-and-miss. You never know. Like sometimes, Black Fridays don’t make that big of a deal, but this Black Friday in particular was really strong,” he said.
There was bustling business at retail stores in Solvang, according to Solvang Chamber of Commerce executive director Tracy Beard. Over the weekend, the chamber promoted its local businesses by posting local retailers’ Black Friday sales on social media and other online channels.
“I think we did pretty good in getting all of our businesses in the groove and getting sales,” Ms. Beard said.
She added that she expects Solvang retailers will do great business during the December holidays.
“I think we’re going to have an incredible holiday season here in this town,” she said.