By Paul Bousquet
Special To The Standard
Despite the lack of natural snowfall this holiday season, residential and visitor traffic generated strong activity in the business sector of Woodstock. From the Woodstock Farmers’ Market and Unicorn to Aubergine, Clover Gifts, Bentley’s, Yankee Bookshop and Woodstock Home & Hardware (WH&H), shop owners reported an upswing in revenues over the prior year. In some cases, there was a substantial increase; for others, a modest improvement. Jeff Kahn reported that his 34-year old store Unicorn recorded two record-setting sales days in December while Larry Perry said that Woodstock Home & Hardware experienced a 12 percent increase in revenue over the same period the prior year. For others, like the Clover Gift Shop, the strong holiday season made up for the losses caused by Tropical Storm Irene. Still others like Woodstock Pharmacy and Aubergine, owners reported a slight increase when compared with the same period last year.
In spite of the Woodstock Farmers’ Market still recovering four months after the devastating storm, Patrick Crowl was thankful for robust sales throughout the holiday period.
The idea of the Village Business Alliance (VBA) embraced by many shop owners to stay open later on Friday and Saturday evenings between Thanksgiving and Christmas produced minimal sales results for some like the Yankee Bookshop, but others spoke enthusiastically in favor of it. Shop owners Scott Franzen at Woodstock Folk Arts & Antiquities, PJ Eames at the Clover Gift Shop and Mima Roberts at Aubergine all said they were pleased with the results of the extended hours and in favor of repeating it. Jeff Kahn said of the Unicorn, “Surprisingly, sales during the extended hours amounted to thousands.” Larry Perry echoed similar results at WH&H. Larry, who chairs the VBA, believes that the concept of extended hours during busy periods has proved its merit, this despite some shops reneging on the idea after committing to it.
Larry and WH&H personnel invested considerable time, effort and money in making signs, emailing, and creating ads to publicize the extended hour schedule for the 22 shops who had signed up. His shop paid out over $1,000 in out-of-pocket expenses to help benefit the Village shopkeepers as well as publicize them on the advertising board beside his own business.
The “Buy Local” concept seems to be gaining traction especially in the aftermath of the storm. From Elliott Newman to Mac’s Market, there is a feeling among shop owners, as evidenced by the holiday business, that both residents and visitors have a greater appreciation and empathy for the small businesses in the community and have responded with increased focus on buying goods and services locally.
Courtney Lowe, Director of Sales and Marketing at the Woodstock Inn reported leisure business during the holidays being stronger than the prior year as well as very busy corporate holiday party business.
In summary, it can be said the business community enjoyed a holiday season somewhat stronger than the prior year. Several shopkeepers, perhaps speaking for the entire business community, wanted to express their gratitude for the support of both residents and visitors.
This article first appeared in the January 5th, 2012 edition of the Vermont Standard.