Will Christmas come early this year?
Locally owned shops and restaurants are hopeful that it will. They are counting on their patrons and community to remember to shop local during a year that has brought more challenges to staying in business than ever before.
The traditional season of giving can often determine whether a local mom and pop shop will finish the year in the black, or if they will be seeing red going into the first few months of the new year that are traditionally slow for small businesses. But, as we know, 2020 has been anything but “traditional.”
Small Business Recovery Slower in Northwest Arkansas
The University of Arkansas Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) in the Sam M. Walton College of Business presented the Northwest Arkansas State of the Region Report for third quarter of 2020 in early October. CBER director, Mervin Jebaraj, reported small businesses in Northwest Arkansas are not rebounding as well in Benton and Washington as they are in other parts of the state. The reason for the slower recovery is related to the area’s high-income earners who work remotely. These individuals are not frequenting the many locally owned restaurants, bars, and retail businesses. People who are working from home are a lot less likely to go out to lunch with coworkers or clients, or go to salons, use professional laundry services and many other activities that come with going to work in their offices.
Downtown Merchants Share Their Stories for Promoting Sales
Downtowns and the holiday shopping season have a relationship that is not only one of nostalgia but also one of economics. For most cities, downtown provides a traditional location to congregate and celebrate throughout November and December. For retail and hospitality businesses in Downtown Rogers, a productive holiday season is critical to success or even survival. Recently, the Chamber Voice of Business newsletter spoke to several downtown merchants to get their insights on the upcoming November-December holiday shopping season. The following are their stories about how they are promoting sales.
Fresh Harvest Tasting Room
Troy Johnson, co-owner of Fresh Harvest Tasting Room, a retail shop that sells ultra-premium extra virgin olive oil, specialty vinegars and gift items in Downtown Rogers, echoed this sentiment. “November and December are our two biggest months. They are critical for us to have a successful year.” When asked how they were working to attract people to downtown during the final weeks of the year, he responded, “We will be doing much more social media this holiday season. And we’ll be increasing our email newsletters and text blasts,” he explained. “We’re considering doing TV commercials, but in election years that can get expensive. We will be having lots of special sales events from now through Christmas as well.”
Honeycomb Kitchen Shop
Next door to Fresh Harvest, Honeycomb Kitchen Shop spent the early weeks of the pandemic pivoting from their popular in-store retail sales and hands-on cooking experiences to offering virtual classes and online sales. Co-owners Melissa Turpin and Dana Smith rely on holiday gift giving as a significant part of their annual business. “Fourth quarter sales make up a large portion of our annual revenue,” Turpin explained. “Especially now since we are limited with events, we will be relying on retail sales even more.” Honeycomb Kitchen Shop will be running special sales and hosting virtual events to encourage customers to shop with them through the holiday season.
More and more locally owned businesses are establishing e-commerce websites to maintain sales and attract existing and new customers during the pandemic. Johnson and Turpin had a head start with robust websites that offer an online retail option. Their customers may order any of their products to be shipped anywhere in the U.S.
Other retail operators have turned to developing new online shopping options as customer needs to be socially distant took precedence over personalized face-to-face sales and service. One such business is American Estates who design and create custom furniture in their manufacturing facility in Lowell.
With the advent of the pandemic, they discontinued their regular hours in their showroom in Downtown Rogers and began operating on an appointment-only basis. They also invested in their first online store, providing their first foray into e-commerce. “We chose to focus our mindset on growth during this unprecedented time,” reflected Jesse Weegens. Jessie and his wife, Niki, own American Estates. “While it has been disappointing to not have our showroom in full swing, we made huge strides towards long term goals of providing our customers with high quality goods in a way that is far more accessible.”
The Dotted Pig
The Dotted Pig has thousands of home décor, boutique and gift items in its store located in the historic Stroud building on the 100 block of West Walnut in Downtown Rogers. A significant number of these items are available for purchase on the e-commerce site that store owner Sherry Puttkammer created earlier this year as a response to COVID-19.
“Fourth quarter is definitely what any of us in retail live for,” commented Puttkammer. “It includes not just Christmas shopping, but also Black Friday and Shop Small Saturday.” The Dotted Pig has launched a new live shopping option for Facebook users providing the ease of shopping from home and shipping anywhere in the U.S. Puttkammer’s store is known for high quality products and service and, while she is again open for in person shoppers, her website allows her customers 24-hour access for shipments locally and across the nation.
Moonbroch Brewing Company
Restaurants have also been impacted by COVID-19. The holiday season is very important to locally owned restaurants and bars like Moonbroch Brewing Company. Co-owner Cassy Cantrell shared her thoughts on the importance of a successful holiday season. “It is very important for us to have a successful season, especially with the regulations surrounding COVID-19,” she explained. “It is essential that we book larger groups to help make up for the time we were closed,” she continued. “We have our third floor available to rent for company or family Christmas/holiday parties and a catering menu for these groups...Our space is very large, so we have plenty of space for social distancing.”