By Brian M. Rafferty
The economy has been like a roller coaster on
a mountainside; mostly filled with the big drops,
and with very little upward motion. In Queens,
like the rest of the City and the country, we
are feeling the pinch.
Businesses have clamped down on staffing over
the holidays – at a time when most stores
beef up personnel for the season, some major
retailers and many smaller shops have kept staffing
level or even scaled back.
For many retail shops, half or more of the year’s
revenue is typically expected to come in during
the holiday season. A recent survey by Next
Chapter Press took a look at the plans of holiday
shoppers and found some news that comes as little
shock to many retailers.
“Considering the current economy and your
own personal financial situation, do you plan
on spending more, about the same or less on
Christmas gifts this year than you would normally
spend,” was what the survey asked. The
highest percentage, 47.9 percent, said spending
less; 45.4 percent said they would spend about
the same while only 3.7 percent committed to
increasing their spending.
According to numbers from the U.S. Department
of Commerce, retail sales in October were down
2.8 percent from September, and down 4.1 percent
from October 2007 – the biggest decline
in 16 years.
An employee from a popular gift retailer in
a Queens Mall, who did not wish her store or
name to be identified, said that her company
was increasing the price for gift wrapping and
had actually reduced hours for staff throughout
the season. Even the typical Black Friday boost
was being tempered – not just at her shop
but throughout the mall.
Another retailer at a mall spoke of the mall’s
public relations people coming through the day
before a major holiday event, warning them to
only give positive feedback to any media that
might question the mall’s business and
the store’s holiday outlook.
At Atlas Park, spokesperson Sara McGuinness
said that “so far everything is going
really well” during the holiday season.
As an incentive to bring shoppers in, Atlas
Park is offering free parking for the first
hour if you spend more than $25 total at the
shopping center. All you have to do is bring
your parking ticket and receipts to the hospitality
center, which is located next to the parking
lot in the same building as the movie theater,
and they will validate your parking for you.
Keep checking with your local shops and malls
as new incentives are sure to pop up during
this holiday season.