With another holiday shopping season almost in the books, Haddonfield businesses surveyed the economic climate of the town, and found a few sunny spots amid the perennial haze.
“This year’s pretty good,” said Peggy Kurtz of The Upholstery Shop, where a sign marked “MORE OLD CHRISTMAS INSIDE” hangs by her front door. That little lure has drawn a variety of visitors, as has her window display, which features a variety of vintage holiday toys and bric-a-brac.
“Everybody has old Christmas stuff in the window, but they’re not selling it,” Kurtz said, adding that the seasonal attraction has helped bring in new customers to her core business as well.
“Everyone wants to come see their childhood,” she said. “We put stuff in our window and they come in and buy it, and then see what we do.”
After a very slow summer, Kurtz opined that the shopping season dragged throughout the town until Black Friday weekend.
“It was so slow for so long and then all of a sudden it opened up,” she said. “A lot of lookers, but nobody was spending money. I think people were just scared. I don’t know what the mindset is.”
With the exception of First Friday, Kurtz said, Haddonfield does not draw the foot traffic it once did, nor does she believe that its biggest special events truly benefit local merchants.
“The Craft Show, that does nothing for Haddonfield businesses,” she said, “but First Friday seems to work, and this candlelight shopping worked.”
In Kurtz’s opinion, Small Business Saturday was the most successful promotion of the season for the majority of local shops.
“I was amazed,” she said, adding that most of her customers specified that they were there “because of Small Business Saturday.”
In Apron, where a colorized version of It’s a Wonderful Life played on repeat on the counter, Pauline Tomafsky said business, especially catering orders, has been steady, even busy.
“We’ve been very busy during the week,” she said, but added, “I think there were more people out on the street last year than [there are] this year.”
Trying to narrow down possible culprits, she ruled out the weather, “It’s been nicer,” and thrift, “We’ve had a lot of people come in to buy gift certificates.”
The two chief suspicions Tomafsky voiced are familiar refrains for the Haddonfield shopping district: limited store hours and parking concerns.
“They don’t stay open if there’s no reason to,” she said. “I think after a certain hour, people go to the malls.”
Tomafsky added that the parking meters have been reported as a source of confusion for some shoppers, who don’t understand free holiday parking if the meters aren’t bagged, a fact that has been compounded by the addition of the digital kiosks on Tanner Street, which are also free until the end of the year.
Kurtz agreed, saying that her customers have offered the exasperating complaint that they don’t come into town because they can’t parallel park or don’t know where to find the lots.