Gift shop owners on the South Shore are pinching pennies as much as they can because of the slow economy. But, they say, they have one concession: people won’t stop buying gifts.
They are carefully budgeting advertising dollars by e-mailing loyal customers. They are also supporting themselves with side activities, like selling wholesale products and doing alterations.
Business is hardly booming at local gift and boutique shops, but owners say it could be worse. Even in the worst economy, there are holidays and special occasions to celebrate, and that means there are gifts to buy.
“People are always going to buy gifts for the children. They’re always going to buy Christmas gifts,” said Sarah Nobles of Mono Mono, a boutique in Marshfield. “I think that would make the bad economy even worse if you just had to stop celebrating things.”
After a slow winter retail season, shop owners are gearing up for Easter and Mother’s Day, adding different product lines in a range of prices to their inventory.
“They feel the need to diversify now in this economy,” said Pam Smith, who sells gifts, books and toys to shops around the region.
Patricia Norins, publisher of Gift Shop magazine, a Hanover-based national trade publication, said shops are changing their focus, trying to provide more items for gift-buying than personal spending.
Some new shops are doing well because of the novelty of having a new store in a community.
“The newness factor definitely has helped us through this trying period,” said Christine Nagle, who opened Pink Tulip in Cohasset in November.
“If I had had a crystal ball, would I have opened in November? Probably not, but I also don’t regret it. I’m pretty optimistic about it,” she said.
Nobles said she has loyal customers who love her store and tell their friends.
“I try to make it a very personal business, which I think my customers appreciate,” she said. “If they’re my regular customers, I’m going to remember who they are and what they like.”
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TAILORING KEEPS SHOP BUSY
Lisa Marie Williams has been in business for 17 years and has never seen sales so slow, she said.
Williams, who owns Lisa Marie’s Boutique, an accessories, gifts and tailoring shop in Marshfield, said her work tailoring for weddings and proms keeps her afloat.
“The only thing that keeps me in business is I’m a seamstress,” she said.
Williams said she also does a weekly special, which is posted on her Web site, and has a clearance section.
She held a special sale event on Valentine’s Day and is planning another for Mother’s Day.
SHOP BANKS ON SPECIAL BRACELETS
Christina Brown is putting her faith in a UV-activated bead bracelet she has designed to carry her gift shop through the recession.
Brown owned two Humming Rock Gifts shops in Humarock, but closed one over the winter because of slow sales.
Now she’s focused on expanding the single store and selling the bead bracelets that change color in the sun.
In three months, she made and sold 10,000 bracelets, shipping most around the world.
The bracelets retail for only about $5, she said, so people are still buying them.
“I decided I had to think of something to get us through. I invented this bracelet,” she said. “I don’t know where I’d be without those bracelets.”
PINK TULIP FOCUSES ON VARIETY
Christine Nagle said she doesn’t regret opening her gift shop, Pink Tulip, in Cohasset in November.
The shop is doing well, despite the economy, she said.
Nagle said she tries to sell a variety of merchandise at varying prices.
“I think in this economy you have to be able to offer something that is different and that is priced in such a way that it’s easy for people to say, 'Yeah, I can afford that,'" she said.
Nagle has also hosted Girls’ Nights Out, when customers can come in with their friends and shop, drink cocktails, and get discounts.
“I think people are happy to go out and do things like that where it’s not going to cost them to go,” she said. “They’ll have fun with their friends and, at the same time, they’ll get a bargain.”
PER SIMMONS SURVIVING HARD TIMES
Shoppers are spending less this year, but they are still buying, said Dale Simmons, owner of per Simmons in Norwell, which has been in business for more than 20 years.
“Everyone still needs a gift and likes to give a gift,” she said.
Simmons said she’s being careful about her buying, and tries to have something fresh and new, but her orders are smaller than they used to be. She’s also working harder to have some type of promotion every month and to find gifts that are practical.
“I’ve been pleased at the business we’ve been doing these past two months because I was expecting nobody,” she said. “If you keep your expectations low, whatever you do is a gift.”