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Local Stores Plan Discounts This Weekend, But It’s All About Service

By Mike Fourcher | Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Little Threads' Randi Kowal in her store. Credit: Mike Fourcher

This holiday season, Roscoe Village and West Lakeview businesses are doing everything they can to attract your shopping dollar. And while many Roscoe View business owners say the holiday season does not “make or break” or break their businesses, the vast majority of their shoppers come from within a mile or two of their stores, so local consumers are critical to their success.

“I will say that Black Friday has typically been an average day for us, slow in the morning and then in the late afternoon we get slammed,” says Randi Kowal, owner of Little Threads at 2033 W. Roscoe Ave. “They start in the malls and then come home to Roscoe Village and check us out.”

“I think [the holiday season] is about 30% of my year, which is not as much as a big box store,” says Building Blocks Toys’ (3306 N. Lincoln Ave.) Katherine McHenry.

But that’s not to say local stores are skimping on deals. The day after Thanksgiving the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring “Southport Black Friday Blow-Out” with store discounts between Belmont Ave. and Byron Ave. Building Blocks is offering 20% off from Friday to Sunday. Little Threads will open early with deep discounts at 8:00 am on Friday, with smaller discounts as the day goes on. In past years store owners from The Denim Lounge, 2004 W. Roscoe Ave. and a Pied, 2037 W. Roscoe Ave., have done the same thing.

Local Chambers of Commerce are also planning events to draw shoppers to local business corridors. The first weekend of December the Roscoe Village Chamber is planning “Winter Wonderland” with a tree lighting and caroling on Roscoe Ave. to draw shoppers. The Lakeview Chamber is planning a “Holiday Stroll” on Southport with sleigh rides and caroling on Saturday the 3rd. Paulina Ave. merchants are planning a “Holiday Open House” on Friday, December 2nd with Ice Sculptures and a visit from Santa Claus.

It seems more than coincidence, but owners say a quirk of timing has made it so that a new tween clothing store, Madison and Friends, 2040 W. Roscoe Ave., is opening on Black Friday.

“We signed the lease in the middle of October. We wanted to open as possible. And so we’re opening on Friday,” says David Shelist, who also owns Denim Lounge across the street.

Small neighborhood store owners say that despite the importance of the holiday season, which can add up to 30% of their annual business, they work all year long to make sure there is a consistent consumer experience.

“I just work really hard throughout the year,” says Building Block’s McHenry. “I don’t wait until Christmas time to bump up my service. This isn’t the time of year when I decide what I am.”

And service and selection is what makes a neighborhood business successful, say owners. “We are a place where moms can shop and kids can play,” says Little Threads’ Kowal. “We know people by name, it’s crazy. We’re a resource for families as well. People ask us about schools and day care and safety issues.”

“You want to spread your business out through the whole year,” says Denim Lounge’s Shelist, who now operates three stores, including a denim store on Oak Street. “We bring in new merchandise every single day. We don’t stock up for holidays. We stock up for February 15, or March 3rd….Our customers know we have lots of new merchandise through the year.”

“Toys ‘R’ Us doesn’t do gift wrap and have toy experts walking around the store,” says McHenry. “We open the door for people struggling with a stroller. We do everything we can to get the customer that does value our service.”

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