Local businesses gear up for the holidays

Nov. 24, 2013 @ 05:51 PM

The holidays are “definitely hugely important” for High Strung, a shop on West Markham Avenue in Durham that sells and repairs guitars and violins and also offers music lessons.
Floor manager Lila Hemsell said the shop sees one of its two annual peaks in sales during the holidays. The other big time of year is during the back-to-school season, when students are looking for instruments to rent for school.
The shop’s holiday business has already started picking up, with customers coming in buying gift certificates for music lessons, music books, and instruments. A lot of the shop’s holiday sales are driven by parents buying instruments for children who started out using rental instruments, she said.
Other large national retailers are looking to draw in customers with deals and promotions on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, but Hemsell the business will be closed on those days. 
Instead, she said the shop will be offering deals starting on what’s known as “Small Business Saturday” along with a group of independently owned businesses in Durham that are part of the small-business alliance Sustain-a-Bull. The businesses are offering promotions and events through Dec. 8.
“I think our customer base is perfectly happy to come in on Saturday,” Hemsell said, instead of on Thanksgiving Day, or Black Friday. “We are dependent on having a strong holiday sales season; we’re always excited to have people come in looking for gifts in early November. I think it’s … being a family-oriented, community-oriented store, and practicing that, means letting our staff members spend time with their families.”
There’s more of a crunch this year for businesses looking to make their fourth-quarter sales targets, as there are five fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. According to a National Retail Federation shopping survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, there’s expected to be a slight decrease in the number of people shopping on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nationwide.
According to a different survey by the National Federation of Independent Businesses and American Express, 67 percent of small-business owners said they plan to offer discounts or general discounts Saturday. Twenty-one percent were planning to increase the number of employees working that day, and 32 percent are starting their holiday promotions earlier.
In addition to participating in Small Business Saturday and in Sustain-a-Bull’s week of promotions, “Shop Independent Durham Week,” Nate Cowles, owner of Bull City Homebrew, said he plans to open for business on Black Friday.
The approximately 3-year-old business on N.C. 54 in Durham sells supplies for home beer and wine-making, as well as mead and cider equipment, cheese-making kits, and “pretty much anything under the sun that has to do with the adult beverage industry,” Cowles said.
“We do soda too,” he added.
The fourth quarter is the most important time of the year for Bull City Homebrew, Cowles said.
To help bring in more business, he said the shop is starting a deal on Black Friday in addition to participating in Sustain-a-Bull’s promotions event for local businesses with sales of half-price tickets to its beer or wine-brewing classes.
He said he doesn’t want to lose business to other shops.
“Friday is generally a good business day for us whether it’s Black Friday or not,” he said. “We’re used to being open seven days a week. If we’re not open when customers need particular ingredients or supplies, it can cause them to go to another business. We try to accommodate our customers without to much stress on employees. It’s a delicate balance.”
The owner of Durham Cycles, Dave LoSchiavo, said he’s not planning to open the shop on Thanksgiving Day or on Black Friday. He said shop’s holiday uptick has already started, and he said they don’t see a spike on any particular day.
The shop is participating in Small Business Saturday, however, and will be offering sales as part of Sustain-a-Bull’s Shop Independent Durham Week. He said they’re offering half-off of helmets with the purchase of a children’s bicycle.
“We think we offer fair prices all year long, (but we’re offering) just a little something extra to help parents enhance Christmas and Hanukkah …,” he said.
Hemsell said High Strung is offering a number of different sales and promotions during the week. They include 20 percent off on instrument hard cases for purchases of guitars priced above $500, violins above $1,500, and ukuleles above $200, and 25 percent off harmonicas. Five percent of ukulele sales in November will be donated to UNICEF for typhoon week.
“I think that week, post-Thanksgiving makes a big difference,” she said.
For the full list of promotions businesses are offering through Sustain-a-Bull’s Shop Independent Durham Week, go to the website http://www.sustainabull.net/2013/10/31/shop-independent-durham-week-is-coming-2/.