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Economy and Business

Black Friday for some became something else for others
Home grown businesses try to draw local customers 

Tim Rudell
Ron Slater's Portage Lakes Bait & Tackle--with post holiday discounts
Courtesy of TPR
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In The Region:

A different idea for post-Thanksgiving bargain hunters: go local; go small; and go later. 

WKSU’s Tim Rudell reports on hometown retailers offering things like unique merchandise, and strong product information and support to draw shoppers back from Black Friday.   

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“Plaid Friday” is one approach:  local retailers working together informally to offer extended hours, extended discount periods and more, as an alternative to the “elbows-in-the-ribs, dash-in-the-dark” of Black Friday.  They call their special time “Plaid” to highlight the variety of participating local retailers.  J.M Lehman owns Niky Nicoles, a boutique in Hudson. “It’s very ‘just getting started’…not unlike Small Business Saturday…but I think this was an attempt to create an event for today as well.”

So…does it work?  Lisa Charpentier and Amy Cantor just walked into the store from First Street:  “…yeah.  I couldn’t get a parking place…so yes.  And yet, it’s still nice and calm [TR: and you’re not sitting in a tent waiting for morning] …exactly; not at all; not at all.”

Both have gone Black Friday shopping in the past, but passed this year, and are now leisurely shopping  in specialty stores in the bright mid-morning.  “Just wanted to come down town to support the local businesses and the small businesses.  And my son and daughter shop downtown after school, and I knew that they would have some things that they liked down here.  So I was going to try to see if I could find them. “ [TR:  “how about you?”]  “ I always get a coupon for my birthday…my birthday is actually tomorrow.  And I got a coupon for InStyl Accessoreies.  So I went over there.  Then I saw Nicky Nicole's and I always have to go in there.”

Lehman looks across the store, not quite choked with customers, but close.  She believes in having unique items for sale…things you don’t see in national chain stores, or catalogues or on the web.  “If you’re looking for something special and you’re really going to please somebody and you are going to feel proud to give, we are absolutely the place to come.  We source from over 200 venders.  A lot of them are made in the USA, and most of them don’t sell to national chains.  And, if people start going in that direction, their business models change, we often will drop out and move on to another vendor.”

On the other side of Summit County from the posh center of Hudson is the not-so-posh bait and tackle shop of Ron Slater.  And he says the same things apply to his place—where, he’s offering 25 percent off on pretty much everything for the holiday deal hunters:  local ties; American made; and unique products—which in his case includes unique product knowledge. “Our place here is American owned.  Most of the products here are American made.  That’s what I try to stress on my business facebook page.” 

Mark Walker is having a cup of coffee and looking over the old-style, thumb-tack-technology message board on the far wall.  He says that product knowledge has a lot do with why he comes in. “Oh yeah, I buy a lot of stuff from Ron:  Rooster tails, spinners, rubber worms.  And you can ask him and he’ll tell you what working.”

Slater recently got back into the bait & tackle business after about a decade in management with a fastener company.  The link to customers, who often become friends, and who rely on him for more than just ringing the cash register are what is making the business tick…“I’m more or less in a different retail area…discount better than big box stores…right on the water…so I can give constant updates on conditions, whereas big box stores are usually miles from the water and don’t’ know what’s going on.”

M.J. Leyman, who left corporate America where she was a senior vice president to start her boutique, feels much the same about her local business. “You know, Hudson is our home base.  We live here.  And for us it’s important, and fun to plug into the community and know what’s going on.

Plaid Friday, Small Business Saturday, and other marketing approaches are good she says.  But listening to local what they want…and offering unique products and a personal connection are keys to success.  And bait & tackle man Ron Slater agrees

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