Merchants on Bell Boulevard are making their list and checking it twice hoping that Santa will bring lots of customers to their stores this holiday season.
According to the National Retail Federation, overall holiday spending at stores is expected to be up only 2.8 percent over last year. With the economy still tanking and unemployment a major issue, it’s believed that shoppers will be looking for bargains and slimming down their gift list.
A survey conducted by Big Research found that two-thirds of holiday shoppers plan to go to discount stores.
Along Bell Boulevard, business owners remain hopeful that the shopping season will be better than last year, but few were optimistic.
Judy Limpert, president of the Bayside Business Association, says she think consumers will spend more money this year, but wonders if they will spend it in Bayside. “I personally think stores will do better this year because people aren’t panicking as much as they were and are used to a scaled-down economy,” Limpert said. “People are looking for bargains and variety, and online shopping hurts us too.”
Gregg Sullivan, executive director of the Bayside Business Improvement District, is hopeful of success, based on his group’s “aggressive October programs” that included a retail expo and a crafts festival that he said drew 2,000 people. “It brought attention back to Bayside and I think it will bring business back,” Sullivan said.
He noted the lack of men’s and women’s clothing shops along Bell and the imminent closing of Mandee, a women’s chain store. “Mandee is a huge blow,” Sullivan said. “I’m recruiting for more clothing stores and working on more parking.”
The BID will also continue sponsoring holiday lights, which will be lit on Friday, and for the first time members will decorate the Long Island Rail Road station area in December.
Harry Rutgers, owner of Bell Family Jewelry for 35 years, says he hopes business is better than last year. To attract customers, he is promoting the trading-in of old gold jewelry.
Rutgers is featuring a new line called Rachel Bianco, which consists of bracelets and other items made from silver and enamel.
Dominick Bruccoleri, owner of Papazzzio restaurant and caterer, says he is already giving quotes on small holiday parties. “It looks like a good one, based on the calls,” Bruccoleri said. “Last season, the numbers were off 15 percent.”
To consolidate expenses, the restaurateur is closed on Mondays and offers specials on Sundays with half-priced pasta and bottles of wine and on Wednesdays and Fridays, half-priced drinks and appetizers. He offers live music Thursdays and Saturdays.
Gus Kormusis, owner of Bell Bay Florist for 35 years, expects about the same amount of business as last year, which he called “not great.” Aside from holiday centerpieces, popular items include wreaths and Christmas plants.
“It’s a very busy month for us,” Kormusis said. “We even hire extra help when we can and use family volunteers too.”
But, he says people consider flowers a luxury item and hold back when the economy is bad. “We have our regulars, but people are spending less.”
George Doulias, who owns Martha’s Bakery, is also hoping his orders will increase over the holidays. “People are already ordering, but after Thanksgiving we hope it will pick up more.”
Holiday cookies, cakes and pies are popular items, which Doulias said can be ordered by phone. Although he offers no holiday specials, the bakery does have regular lunch incentives Monday to Friday.