Black Friday, Small Biz Saturday leave mixed feelings in OP

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By Ashley Lisenby

Digital Editor

If Black Friday and Small Business Saturday seemed to lack the usual surge of frantic shoppers ready to spend, you're right.

Weekend sales dropped an estimated 11.3 percent compared to last year, according to a Chicago Tribune report. But Thanksgiving and Black Friday online sales, according to IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark, were up — 14.3 percent on Thanksgiving Day and 9.5 percent on Black Friday.

The post-Thanksgiving shopping weekend turnout left some Oak Park store owners and managers satisfied and others a bit disappointed.

"We definitely saw an increase from last year in foot traffic and in sales each day over the weekend," Green Home Experts owner Maria Onesto Moran said Monday afternoon. "The early cold weather we've had has slowed down foot traffic, but the nice weather on Saturday helped."

The pressure has been on retailers for the last couple of years, said Moran, because with Thanksgiving falling later in the year, stores have to sell more on fewer days.

But "door busters" are not what Green Home Experts is about.

"Door busters go against everything we believe in," said Moran. "We're not 'buy, buy, buy.' We're about curating useful and affordable items."

Moran has even come up with an acronym to embody the business's core values, GLEA: Green, Local, Enjoyable, Affordable.

So unlike some big-box stores, the environmentally conscious retailer was closed on Thanksgiving Day. On the days the store was open, Moran said, the store's products, which are all mostly $20 and under, "moved well."

A few of the store's big-selling items were kid's Green Science and Green Creativity kits, fair trade ornaments, Mrs. Meyers seasonal products and bell-shaped birdseed feeders.

Co-owner of The Book Table, Jason Smith, said the indie bookstore also saw a "nice increase" from last year's holiday shopping weekend.

The downtown Oak Park bookstore focused primarily on Black Friday, as opposed to the other two major shopping days. The Book Table has annually donated 10 percent of sales on Black Friday to West Suburban PADS.

Smith said supporting local businesses and causes is the "ethos of the community."

For Nora's Shoe Shop manager Gina Milkovich, Small Business Saturday was a bit of a letdown.

"Saturday was quiet," Milkovich said. "There was a lack of support, if anything."

Milkovich said the drop in customers over the weekend was "perplexing," given a "good turnout" in October, a new rewards program and a pre-sale the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Even though the boutique shoe store saw fewer patrons on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, Milkovich remained hopeful for Cyber Monday sales, calling what she saw of this year's online sales "stronger."

According to the same Chicago Tribune report, based on data collected by IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark, Cyber Monday sales as of 2 p.m. Monday were 8.7 percent higher than 2013 online sales.

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