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Small-town shopping more about relaxing, customer loyalty

December 02, 2009
MEREDITH — In Tilton, stores at the Tanger Outlet Center were offering nearly 60 percent off items at midnight on Friday. Down Interstate 93, 10 percent off black licorice at Lee's Candy Kitchen was one of the biggest sales in Meredith.

As shoppers rushed for Black Friday deals at bigger stores, day-after-Thanksgiving shopping was a more casual affair for smaller shops in the Meredith area and numbers of casual shoppers and loyal patrons were high.

As of Friday afternoon, the upper and lower parking lots of the shops at Mill Falls were heavily populated. A large group of shoppers milled around the complex with a few walking through the area of Main Street.

Unlike most Black Friday crowds, few bags were in hands and most of the bags were small with few exceptions. Some customers said they came out to get out of the house and out of the rainy weather, but not for serious holiday shopping.

Sue Cerutti, executive director of the Meredith Chamber of Commerce, said smaller stores in Meredith, Center Harbor, Moultonboro, and Sandwich, do not see the same kind of rush that large stores see the day after Thanksgiving.

"It's a family weekend and a lot of people are here for the weekend," Cerutti said. "The Black Friday idea is the big chain stores whereas the type of shoppers we get is a lot of people staying for the weekend. They out enjoying the ambiance of the types of shops we have."

At Mill Falls Marketplace, most storeowners and managers said they did see higher numbers on the Friday after Thanksgiving, though many would not call it "Black Friday;" saying the upswing was mostly attributable to the weekend or people getting outside after Thanksgiving.

Cerutti said local shops have more unique items, especially those that are handcrafted, that shoppers would not necessarily find in a larger store or online. Such items make for popular gifts but not with a rush.

"Each of these shops because of their uniqueness have their own following there are people in this area that are gong to buy things from certain shops," Cerutti said. "I think there's a lot of loyalty to individual shops on the part of the local people."

Cerutti said she heard from merchants that more people were buying items two weeks before Thanksgiving.

"I know when people think Black Friday they tend more toward the mall or the other stores," said Nancy Spears, manager of Adornments. "We're not going to (have) things marked down at 70 percent, I don't have any items to go on sale at four in the morning."

Spears said Adornments had been seeing the usual amount of customers and most people would come in looking for something specifically as the store is more of a specialty store.

Adornments will be having a sale during the Mill Falls, offering 20 percent off items in celebration of their 20th anniversary. Other storeowners and managers were also expecting increased traffic during the open house.

Cerutti said the smaller stores have events such as the Meredith open house and the Center Harbor Shop Hop as well as trunk sales, book signings, and other events in other smaller stores that would being more people in.

Lee's Candy Kitchen had been busy on Friday.

"It's a vacation week," said owner Jerry Fagan. "It's busier than a normal Friday."

The store was offering 10 percent off black licorice in honor of Black Friday.

Many also recognized Black Friday's impact on any retail business.

"It's a busy day for everybody in retail," Fagan said. "It's busier than a normal Friday."

Innisfree Bookshop was busy on Friday afternoon.

"It's a very busy day," said Innisfree manager Bev Newton. "People are happy to be out, they're visiting family. I think they're doing Christmas shopping today."

Newton said the numbers are normal for what they see the day after Thanksgiving.

"This will probably be our busy day," Newton said. "Will this be our biggest day during the entire season? I don't know."

Newton said the store will probably see high numbers during the open house, but most shoppers will likely be strolling around and not doing serious shopping.

"I don't know how the numbers will compare but it will be a busy, bustling day."

Katheryn Rolfe, owner of Oglethorpe, said the store is busy every weekend though it has been a bit busier the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Rolfe said quite a few people were shopping in the store for gifts and the American-made crafts have a large appeal for holiday shoppers.

"People want to support our own economy," Rolfe said.

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