Main St. Retailers Say People Shopped Local Over Holidays

Some credited good weather and the “Alex & Ani” effect as well.

Call it a perfect retail storm: good weather, a national “shop local” movement and a hot jewelry store. The combination resulted in better sales, according to several Main Street merchants.

Unlike December 2010, which saw more than one snow storm, December 2011 was mild and dry, making a stroll on Main Street a pleasure rather than a hardship.

And the holiday season kicked off with the that returned some money to buyers who used their Amex cards at certain smaller retailers. Shopping local became a slogan that extended beyond the Amex campaign – several retailers said that customers told them they were trying to do more of their shopping at smaller stores this year.

But the most interesting “plus” for some on Main Street was that – the Cranston-based jewelry company – has a store right in the heart of downtown Main Street.

“That Alex and Ani store was insane,” said Krysten Byrne, manager of . “They had valet parking and a body guard and a personal violinist in there.… Every morning there was a line outside.”

Byrne said she was thrilled with how the holidays turned out for her store.

“It was fantastic. We were very busy from the last two weeks of November all the way through the end of December. We’ve been cleaned out pretty much,” Byrne said.

Polly Stacey of also was happy with holiday sales. “It was great. We’ve only been open three months total, so it was all new for us,” said Stacey. “People liked the concept of the store. Our sales were good. And, as people are coming in now, with the post-holiday sale, they say, 'Oh, I wish we had found you before Christmas.' So I think next year should be even better.

“We’ve got a great location and Main Street’s a great place. People still shop locally on this street,” Stacey said.

As for the Alex & Ani effect? “For us, it was only a benefit,” she said. “We had people – because we are across the street – someone would wait in line over there and someone else would come over here and shop. It was fantastic. Lots of people came in with their bags and they probably wouldn’t have found us otherwise.”

Marie Schaller of The Chocolate Delicacy also credited Alex & Ani for helping boost sales.

“I think it was good synergy with Alex and Ani – and Smyle! too,” said Schaller. “The thing that was encouraging was sales were spread out over more people. That was a good thing.”

Cara Neiderberger, owner of , said she’s lucky because they have a great customer base. Still, she credits some of her shop’s “record sales” this holiday season to the shop-local movement.

“I think there were a lot of people out of Main Street that were looking for small businesses,” said Neiderberger.

At , sales were better this year, if not hugely so. Still owner Lois Hollingsworth said she thinks all the stores on Main Street – including Alex & Ani – provide a draw. “I think everything helps Main Street.”

Kathryn Tillinghast of said the weather helped her gift store. “Last year we were dealing with major snow banks.”

She also credited the small business push. “We had a lot of people who said, 'Hey we’re going to shop on Main Street this year,'” she said. And Tillinghast is doing her part – she is now buying the shop’s packaging from a Providence company.

“It does start to snowball,” she said. “We’re hoping that it will turn into a real way of life for people to shop local.”


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