As merchants in this town have done for years, small-business owners banded together for a weekend sales event meant to pull customers through as many doorways as possible and, as always, squeeze new efficiencies from their advertising dollars.
On Saturday and Sunday, almost two dozen stores along Madison participated in an indoor sidewalk sale offering discounts large and small. Warmer weather would certainly invite customers to spend more time ambling up the sidewalks, bouncing from business to business, but store owners may feel like they need to create their own heat.
“I don’t know that anyone’s kind of up against the wall, it’s just that if we have a good business district we can all do better,” Rosemary Gange, owner of Camille et Famille, 7418 Madison, said.
Nationally, sales figures have begun to show some life but storeowners in Forest Park say their registers aren’t busy enough. The holiday shopping season brought only mild relief, and in neighboring Oak Park a handful of locally-owned mainstays have recently announced their struggles to survive the economy.
To help spur consumer spending in Forest Park, retailers moved the indoor sidewalk sale up from March when it was held last year.
Mary Scatena works at Deedee & Edee, 7415 Madison, and helped organize the weekend’s event. In addition to pooling their resources to help promote their discounted items, Scatena said her fellow retailers understand the power of cross promoting. For example, customers were encouraged to visit at least 10 different stores during the weekend by taking a raffle card to participating retailers and having it marked. Customers weren’t required to buy anything, said Scatena, but it at least gives shoppers a chance to see some merchandise they may have otherwise ignored.
“This street is wonderful,” Scatena said.
Julia Archer opened At Work Design, an upscale home-office supply store at 7500 Madison, in 2009. She participated in the weekend’s sale event, but Archer said she isn’t sure that the customers she’s trying to reach are going to be drawn in by gimmicks. That being said, it doesn’t hurt to try new ways of putting her business in front of people so she’s glad to see such an enmeshed network of retailers around her.
“I think I do better when people are looking for a particular style, brand or something unique,” Archer said.
Before Gange reopened her women’s clothing and home accessories store in the fall, Camille et Famille was located in Oak Park for 17 years. She earned a reputation as a smart business owner with an eye for trends and understanding customers’ habits. Over the weekend, Gange offered a 25 percent discount on everything in her store – even new merchandise that was still being unpacked. The goal, she said, was to get people excited about shopping again.
And that’s something that every retailer is striving for.
“If they find something here, great. If not, they can find it down the block,” Gange said.