The busy holiday season is coming to a close, but there are ways locals can both get good deals for merchandise in Alexandria and support local businesses moving into a slow season.
Retail shopping tends to hit a fever pitch just before Christmas, but some local business owners said post-holiday shopping can still be a rewarding experience in a very different way.
“You’re going to get the best sales,” said Chris Ouellette from The Old Town Shop (104 S Union Street). “If you’re looking to restock for the next year, this is the time to come and buy holiday merchandise for next year because everything is 50% off and we’re trying to minimize inventory before the new year.”
Alexandria has a fair number of people who go all-out on their holiday decorations, and Ouellette said this is the best time for them to get ahead on next year’s decorations.
“A lot of people are big decorators who want to upgrade for the next year,” Ouellette said. “This is the time to shop.”
Shopping early for holiday decorations is also a boon for local businesses with leftover material on their shelves.
“That’s just merchandise that sits around for another year that isn’t going to sell,” Ouellette said. “Unless you’re The Christmas Attic, Christmas stuff doesn’t usually sell in May or June.”
Frank Kozuch, owner of Whistle Stop Toy & Hobby (1719 Centre Plaza) said sleds are the big seller in the post-Christmas holiday season. Alexandria hasn’t seen substantial snowfall yet this winter, but traditionally sees at least a light dusting in January.
Whistle Stop Toy & Hobby also sells items with a year-round appeal, like board games, Lego sets, and toy rockets. Kozuch said he mixes some newer games in with classics like Monopoly and Clue, but said keeping up with the latest gaming zeitgeist can be time-consuming.
“The problem with games is there are a lot of individual people that create games, so there are hundreds of those types of games and you have to search to buy them individually,” Kozuch. “There are really hundreds, some just produced from someone’s basement.”
The owner of a store in Old Town told ALXnow anonymously that they reached out to other local business owners and compiled a list of things local shoppers should keep in mind:
We talked to locally owned retailers this week about the week after Christmas – a week known for returns and long lines at the register as people use their time off to “correct” gifts that may not have been quite right. Here are some words of advice that our small business community gave:
- Shop! The best way to support us this week is to get out and shop with us.
- Be patient with us if the shop is busy. We have small teams, and they are stretched thin during and after the holidays. Hiring “seasonal” help is usually not possible for a small business whose teams have to have extensive knowledge of the merchandise and are not just capable of standing at a cash register.
- If you loved your gift, spread the word on social media. Tag the small business that it came from!
- Consider doing an exchange rather than a return!
- Do your returns within a week but be sure to check the return policy of the store. Many are unable to return items purchased on sale or only allow exchanges or store credit. One boutique reported that they are unable to take a return on any product that has been opened, as their vendors will not take the item back from them so they would take the full hit on any return of opened product. Remember that the employees working are unable to break return policies (or in some cases their point of sale won’t even allow it).
- If something doesn’t work properly, check first with the manufacturer. There is a difference between a warranty and a return. Some businesses are able to do warranty replacements for some of their brands. Others are told by their suppliers to send the customer directly to them. It really depends on the item and the shop it was purchased from. Don’t expect every retailer to be able to hand you a new item to replace the broken one.
- Small retailers don’t have communications or service departments. When you contact a business via text, chat, google, facebook, Instagram, etc there is likely one person that answers all of those apps. They don’t work 24/7. It could take some time to get a response that.
- Understand that the people behind the business and those in the store are also human. Try to be empathetic. If we have an off day, don’t go immediately to Yelp to leave a bad review. Reach out to us with your experience so that we have a chance to correct it.
- If using one of those visa or amex gift cards to pay, please know how much is available on it before you get to the register. Waiting for you to check an app or call the number on the back of the card will hold up the line, and the card will be declined if we attempt to charge more than what is available on it.
- Please do not ask for price adjustments at a locally owned business.
- Hello and how are you can go a long way.
- Don’t want that thing in your hand? Give it to an employee rather than trying to put it back or leaving it in a random spot in the store.
- Don’t make it a family affair. Small boutiques are… small. Coming in to do business with a trail of five family members will possiblyh fill a small shop and those loved ones spend that time looking uncomfortable and in the way.
- Impact – employee morale. After working during COVID, retail employees are more stressed than ever. Angry and bullying customers impact their stress levels and their desire to work in this industry.
James Cullum contributed to this story
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