Despite the stubborn, albeit easing shadow of inflation looming over the U.S. economy, some Salt Lake City shoppers still opted to venture out over the holiday weekend to support local businesses.
“I just like the feel of going in store and, like, the busyness. It’s kind of fun to go into the mall,” Sean Hammond told KSL while Black Friday shopping.
Data from the National Retail Federation said that about 166 million people planned to shop from last Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday through Cyber Monday, almost 8 million more than last year.
Liz Findlay, co-founder of Albion, a Utah-based women’s clothing company, said the company’s customer base in 2021 bounced back strongly from the pandemic, with the trend continuing over this holiday weekend.
“Traffic was pretty similar to last year, so we did not see a huge influx,” Findlay said.
Albion has locations at both City Creek and Fashion Place malls, and Findlay said the shopper turnout at City Creek was on par with last year while Fashion Place saw a slight downturn in shoppers.
This could be due to an increase in online sales taking place even before the deals of Cyber Monday.
Shoppers spent a record $9.12 billion online on Black Friday, up 2.3% from last year, according to Adobe. E-commerce activity continued to be strong over the weekend, with $9.55 billion in online sales.
Findlay said she feels inflation has “definitely” impacted overall consumer sentiment, as well as what consumers are spending their money on.
“Honestly, I feel like most people have less disposable income,” Findlay said. “I do think that the customer this year is looking for a huge bargain, so I do think those people that had the 60, 70, 80% off — I would assume that they had a lot better sales, but they probably have a lot more inventory they have to go through.”
Reuters on Monday reported that Cyber Monday spending — the biggest U.S. online shopping day — is set to hit a record $11.2 billion this year.
Still, some Salt Lake City businesses enjoyed a weekend of bustling business.
The Tutoring Toy owner Bill Sartain said that his toy shop enjoyed a “very strong” Friday and Saturday.
“It was a really good two days,” Sartain said, adding that on Saturday, the store had “three, four, five times the number of customers in the store.”
“Saturday was just blockbuster,” he said. “When crazy is crazy, you lose track of how crazy it is.”
Sartain said while most people assume Small Business Saturday is about “helping out the little, local guy,” it also provides a tremendous boost for the local community.
“Seventy percent of money that is spent in local stores is returned to the community,” Sartain said. “From online retailers, for instance, only 40% stays in the community.”
Even with the successful weekend, Sartain said the busiest days for the toy shop are yet to come.
“Usually that last three weeks just before Christmas, it’s almost frantic. We will do, in one day, what (we do in) a normal week in the offseason.”
So with shoppers across the nation opting for more online shopping, how will stores like The Tutoring Toy and Albion attract customers to their brick-and-mortar locations?
Findlay said that in order to be successful, she believes stores will need to make a concerted effort “to create a sense of destination for their store.”
“Just having good product isn’t enough anymore and I think customers, if they’re coming into the store, it’s because they want a sense of community,” Findlay said. “I think that’s going to be continually really important for retailers.”