The consensus among the retailers on Madison St. was that the day after Thanksgiving was more of a gray Friday than a black one. That is, no one on the street was complaining, but if their sales had increased over last year, it was only by a little bit.
Lisa Dodge at American Artworks Gallery, for example, was happy to report that sales were up at her store but only by a small amount. Janet Todd at Todd and Holland Tea Merchants said the same, “slightly better.”
Deb Dworman at deedee and edee had an interesting comment. She said that sales at her boutique were worse than what she experienced last year, but hastened to add, “It was still a good weekend.”
Many of the merchants reported that the three days—Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday—were uneven in terms of sales. Peter Gianakopoulis, the co-owner of Old School Records, Jeff Suchowski from Famous Liquors, Jayne Ertel, one of the owners of Team Blonde, August Aleksy, who owns Centuries and Sleuths, Erika Goodman Osborn, who has the Mary Kay franchise in town and Jef Anderson at Yearbook all said that one of the three supposedly big shopping days was worse than last year, while one of them was better.
Ironically, only two merchants out of the eleven interviewed said that their revenue on what some marketers have started referring to as Small Business Saturday was better than last year, while Dworman, Gianakopoulos and Suchowski actually said it was worse. Neal Sax who works at Grand Appliance and Fred Bryant who owns Accents by Fred reported that sales seemed to be about the same as last year.
One way Madison Street retailers are dealing with online competition is by going online themselves. Todd said that when they were starting their tea business in 1994, all of their sales were online. Even after opening a brick and mortar store, they still do 38 percent of their business on the internet. Gianakopoulis does even more online, 50 percent of his sales. Goodman Osborn said she does 30 percent of her business via the internet. Anderson at Yearbook has just gotten online with his business, and Grand Appliance makes about 10 percent of its sales online.
As far as the retailers were concerned, the glass was half full at the beginning of the holiday shopping season. From David King’s point of view, however, that remaining half empty portion is going to be filling up soon.
King, the president of Oak Park-based commercial real estate firm David King and Associates and a Forest Park Resident, wrote in an email, “I’m VERY EXCITED about 2014! Our Business is three to six months ahead of the economy. It takes that long to put deals together and a new business to then open. We are seeing significant interest in Madison Street and the surrounding area over the last 3 months.”
To back up his optimism, he said that every store on Madison Street west of Desplaines Avenue is now occupied. He cited new businesses in town: Stencib at 7503 Madison, Manouche at 7349 Madison and Coveny Lane at 7223 Madison. He said that Bedding Experts will soon move into the old Circle Theater building and that there is strong interest in the Fiorenza property.