For retailers in Portland, Maine’s historic Old Port shopping district, products are flying off the shelves this holiday season. Although many shops were hit hard by the recession in 2008, they’ve made a strong recovery in the two years since. While it’s still early days in this year’s shopping season, retailers expect an even better year in 2010 -- even though most aren’t going out of their way to compete on price with the big box stores.
Kelly Fernald, co-owner of an active clothing store called Nomads, has discounted all products by 20 percent for the holiday weekend, but LeRoux Kitchen and Longfellow Books haven’t made any special concessions for bargain hunters. For all three stores, quality customer service, a carefully curated selection of products, and great locations in the walkable downtown district are the common threads that keep customers coming back.
“I get to know my customers well,” says Fernald. “If people are visiting, I’ll talk with them about the city and give them ideas for what to do.”
At LeRoux Kitchen, says buyer Leslie Khorsandi, “we have a really broad assortment of products, so shoppers know that if we don’t have something, they’re not likely to find it anywhere else.” She also believes that the staff is a cut above the big box stores. “They’re really knowledgeable about food and cooking, and take their time with the customers,” she says.
Portland’s “Buy Local” campaign is also holding the upcoming “East End Stroll” on December 4th, in which 30 shops will offer special snacks and raffle drawings to holiday shoppers. Business owners expect that the event will give their sales a boost, but the best is yet to come.
“For downtown businesses, the holiday shopping season is later,” says Chris Bow, co-owner of Longfellow Books. “The last two weeks before Christmas are when it really goes nuts.”
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Image credit: Adan Garcia