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Queens Chronicle

Holiday shopping a mixed bag in 2011

Large, small retailers girding up for the 2011 holiday crunch time

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Posted: Thursday, November 10, 2011 12:00 pm

Black Friday, or the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season, comes on Nov. 25. And the economy, combined with numerous other factors, is leaving merchants looking at a mixed bag this year.

Along Grand and Flushing avenues in Maspeth, the mood is not ecstatic, but it is also not dower.

“We don’t have a lot of retail giants, so I don’t think we have a lot of people expecting a large Christmas rush,” said Michael Terry, president of the Maspeth Chamber of Commerce.

“We have some stores, a few florists that might benefit. Everyone is disappointed with the business climate right now, but so far I haven’t heard anyone here complaining too much.”

While some tend to blame the malls or large chain stores for hurting business, Dean Pappas of Grand Bicycle Center on Grand Avenue said his biggest competitors are technology, and the times.

“We’ll still sell bicycles as presents for kids up to about 8 years old, when it’s up to the parents,” Pappas said. “Any older and they begin to want things like Xboxes.”

He said the grownups aren’t even buying themselves as many two-wheeled presents.

“It used to be we’d easily have 200 or 300 lay-aways for Christmas,” he said. “Now we’ll get about 100.”

Vita Como, owner of Europa Baby and Children’s Boutique on Grand Avenue, opened her store in October.

“I don’t have anything to measure it by yet, but I hope we get a Black Friday rush,” Como said. “We get grandmothers and godmothers coming in because we specialize in baptismal outfits. But I think they will come in to buy clothes as gifts.”

Using an old business axiom she said that a niche is important to a neighborhood retailer.

“I’m the only children’s clothing store in the neighborhood and I’m trying to get that word out there,” she said.

Como has even augmented old-fashioned business sense with new tools such as a Facebook page.

As for larger stores, the Queens Center mall in Elmhurst is traditionally one of the places for full-contact bargain hunting by experienced shoppers on the day after Thanksgiving.

Major chain stores at the mall did not offer forecasts or prognostications for the holiday season, but almost all participated last month in a job fair that brought 1,500 people to the food court applying for 1,200 seasonal — that is, holiday — jobs.

Macy’s officials declined to offer comment or sales figures on their local store, but their most recent same-store sales for the month of October were up 2 percent over October 2010 in data from the company’s corporate website.

J. C. Penney representatives also declined to discuss specific stores. Their website’s October 2011 figures showed a 2.6 percent decline from October 2010.

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