Black Friday and Small Business Saturday typically mark the start of the holiday gift-buying season. And this year, those dates are more important than ever.
Coming out of the coronavirus pandemic, while inflation weighs down the economy, many local business owners are anxious about the impact of this week’s shopping dates.
In Turlock, the holiday season gets an even earlier start with the annual Shop the Blocks event, which was held on Nov. 6.
“Shop the Blocks was our best day ever,” said Teresa Soderquist-Benedict, who owns Vintage Market on Main Street. “It’s always our biggest day of the year, but this was our biggest.”
But with Shop the Blocks in the rear-view mirror, merchants’ collective attention has turned toward the opening of holiday shopping weekend.
“It’s pretty big,” said Jenny Roots Sousa, owner of Rustic Roots on Main Street, commenting on her expectations. “My numbers are way down.”
Roots says she had a good day during Shop the Blocks. Still, her numbers were down $1,000 from last year and a whopping $10,000 from two years ago.
Lisa Espinola has a similar story.
The Turlock native who has owned the fashion boutique Glitz since 2011 says she needs to “crush” Black Friday and Small Business Saturday.
“I don’t think we’re going to crush it,” she guessed. “But it’s super vital for us this year. We’ll offer discounts on Black Friday and then we’ll offer deeper discounts on Saturday, with scratch-offs that’ll give anywhere from 20 to 40 percent off.”
Julie LoForti, who’s owned Bella Forte Boutique on Broadway for 11 years, said she doesn’t know what to expect this weekend, but she is sure that the city needs to release funds for the Rad Card program. The program puts federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act into a system where customers can buy an electronic gift card worth double what they pay. Then they spend that money at locally owned businesses that sign up to participate.
Cities and counties release the money to participate. Turlock released some funds earlier this year but there was a delay and business owners have been asking when more money might be added to the program.
“All the other towns are getting funds and we didn’t,” said LoForti. “I have a friend who went shopping (Friday) in Tracy because Tracy has Rad funds.”
Last Friday was Pink Friday, when shoppers are asked to consider shopping locally before anywhere else.
While the pandemic was in many instances the death knell for small businesses, the Greenery Nursery and Garden Shop on Olive Avenue didn’t face the same threat.
“During the pandemic, everybody was stuck at home and they had to do something, so they turned to gardening,” said Adria Afferino, GM of the Greenery. “With us, spring is our big season and we’re more concerned about the drought. But Shop the Blocks was OK. I can’t complain.”
Casey King, owner of Cycle Masters on Main Street, went home early during Shop the Blocks.
“I had one person come to pick up tires they’d already ordered,” he said. “And I had one couple come in and look around. And that was it.”
King expects business will pick up later in December, when folks are looking for a bicycle to put under the tree. But typically, like gardening, bicycling is more of a spring activity.
Basically, it comes down to the type of business.
Soderquist-Benedict isn’t worried about the holiday season.
“We’re different enough that I think we’ll be OK,” she said. “We have a lot of vintage and handmade merchandise, and we draw customers from other towns, so that’s super helpful. Plus, we own this building, and that’s a big help.”
Others, however, are hoping that a big weekend portends well for a big December and beyond.
“During the pandemic, it was hard being closed for two months,” said Espinola. “But we did OK. Our customers rallied for us. I’m hoping the community still has that same spirit.”