Retail in New Haven has continued to boom since Thanksgiving weekend as customers window-shop less and buy more in anticipation of the holidays.
While some shop owners are confident their success will continue through the new year, others have raised concerns that sales will drop as students travel home for winter break.
Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce President Tony Rescigno said although businesses may feel a minor effect of student departure, most retailers this year should expect a rise in business during the weeks when students are out of town.
“Sales are up, streets are busier and there’s lots of enthusiasm about what’s being done in New Haven today, as compared to yesterday, and certainly four to five years ago,” Rescigno said. “Merchants look forward to a very, very good next few weeks.”
Efforts by the New Haven Town Green Special Services District, Market New Haven and the New Haven Office of Cultural Affairs to attract business downtown during the holiday season are visible throughout the city. These groups have spent over $100,000 on their most expensive holiday campaign in New Haven history, which includes consumer incentive promotions like free movie tickets and gift certificates.
University Properties director David Newton said he thinks the foot traffic around New Haven in the past few weeks has increased significantly from this time last year. He said people’s general knowledge of the special events going on in New Haven during the holidays has had an extremely positive effect on business.
Retailers have particularly benefited from “Late Night Thursdays,” a promotion in which the city encourages all stores on Broadway and Chapel to remain open until 9 p.m. on Thursdays so that holiday shoppers can stay out longer. Although most stores on Broadway remain open until 9 p.m. or later on a daily basis, Broadway shop owners said they benefit from other stores’ being open late as well.
Paul Cuticello, the owner and manager of the Paul Richards shoe store, on the corner of York and Elm, said he has made some of his biggest holiday sales on Thursday evenings.
“Because other stores in New Haven are open late too, many more people are walking around and end up stopping in my store than other nights of the week,” Cuticello said.
Shop owners said Thanksgiving break served as a good indication of whether stores will lose business when students leave New Haven again at the end of the semester. Cuticello said his store receives a lot of business from Yale students, but because the day before Thanksgiving was one of the busiest days since his store opened last spring, he does not expect a slowdown over winter break.
Tammy Hackett, the co-owner and manager of the recently opened Oolongs Tea Bar, said so far, the majority of her business has been from Yale students. Business practically came to a stand-still over Thanksgiving break, but she said she hopes the same will not occur over winter break as the shop’s name recognition increases among locals.
“We have put together a lot of special holiday packages that should appeal to New Haven employees and residents as the weather gets colder and Christmas gets nearer,” Hackett said.
More seasoned Broadway retailer Phil Cutler, who has run Cutler’s Compact Discs for over a decade, said his busiest days of the year have always been the 10 days before Christmas when most Yale students are long gone. But he said he also receives a good amount of business from students in the weeks leading up to winter vacation.
“This past weekend was crazy and much more crowded with customers than in past years,” Cutler said. “It could have been the good weather, all the holiday promotion, or just the fact that once the calendar turns to December, people realize they have to get moving.”