Snow Has Small Impact on S.O. Retailers

Despite predictions, weather didn't deter shoppers from heading to the Village, store owners say.

Saturday's snowstorm changed plans and altered traffic in town and around the region. Surprisingly, though, it had less impact on local retailers than many feared. 

"I was surprised, pleasantly surprised," said Ben Salmon, owner of Kitchen a la Mode. He theorized that predictions of snow kept local shoppers from driving to Routes 10 or 22. "Local is easy," Salmon explains. "Saturday's business was mostly in the morning, before the snow really started to fall. If they needed to, people could head home from the Village almost immediately."

Other retailers around the Village saw the same pattern. At South Orange Pharmacy, which does a brisk trade in higher-end bath and body products, toys and "as seen on TV" wares, the morning was "crazy." Pharmacist Joe Loiacono saw worried customers coming for prescriptions and other items early, followed by a quiet afternoon. As far as medications go, Loiacono notes that he and his staff can— and will—walk deliveries around town when necessary. And as for future snowstorms, customers can be confident that he'll open on time. "I have a Jeep and I live near a train station," says Loiacono. "We'll open."

According to an article in Monday's New York Times, retail analysts expect that many consumers who didn't brave the elements on Saturday and Sunday will shop this week instead. This is a familiar pattern for Jeff Peters, owner of Commuter Comics. Saturday was a busy day at the comic book store, though Peters noted that his imminent closing means the shop isn't fully stocked. Sunday was quiet. However, the pattern that Peters has seen in the past six years is that the local shopping season is "now, the days right before Christmas." Peters noted that the week after Christmas is also busy for him. "People come in and buy gifts for themselves, maybe, or kids spend money from Grandma," he reports. 

Karen Wilson, owner of Good Shepherd Christian Book and Gift Shop, saw "traffic" on Saturday morning, and customers were at her store early Monday morning as well. She's less dependent this year on Christmas sales than in the past. "We were lucky," she says. New for this year, Wilson sells a bagged set that includes a New Testament Christmas Edition, tract, gift and an invitation. Bolstered by a "Buy one, get one" promotion in September, the $1 bags have been selling briskly, often by the box. "Churches and individuals picked up on these right away," says Wilson.

A South Orange resident, Wilson notes that many customers came from neighboring towns to purchase the gift bags.

Sparkhouse Kids was full on Monday morning, with customers' purchases piled high on the counter. Michael Casaren reports that Saturday was busier early in the day. "It slowed a little in the afternoon," he notes. "And Sunday was a little slower than expected." Looking around the bustling store, Casaren said, "I'm cautiously optimistic."

Anecdotally, Casaren has good reason to be hopeful about seasonal sales. Monday morning saw brisk foot traffic around town, with many shoppers making several stops. 

"I was worried," admits Salmon. "But it's a nice day, snow's melting, and I think it's going to be okay."


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