Yale students might be somewhat materialistic, but stores near campus say they manage just fine over winter break even though Yalies are not in New Haven during the holiday shopping season.
Though winter break leaves streets near campus emptier than usual, University Properties officials and many local stores said business does not suffer over the holidays. Because of the pull of the city’s national chains, a strong local customer base and the natural increase in spending during holiday shopping season, business remains strong for area merchants while students are not around, store owners said.
Director of University Properties David Newton said the national chains in the Broadway District attract people from the suburbs, but they are not the only reason why retail in the downtown remains constant. The retail areas that University Properties manages consist mostly of independent stores — out of the 85 stores University Properties keeps in its portfolio, only five are national chains — and this mix of stores provides a unique atmosphere that is not found in nearby suburbs, Newton said.
“[Retail on Broadway] fares well because of the combination of unique independent retailers that you don’t find in the suburbs as well as the presence of some national chains,” he said.
Holiday promotions also work to draw in shoppers, said Shana Schneider, director of marketing for University Properties.
While many shop owners in the Broadway District said retail is not significantly affected by winter break, they had various explanations for why that might be the case. Don Byrd, store manager of Thom Brown, said though Yalies leave the area, other college students return to their native New Haven for winter break.
“If the absence of Yale students has an effect on retail, it’s very slight,” he said.
But Joseph Stinson, co-owner of Alternate Universe (Comics and Cards), said business gets slower during the holidays. Another group of shoppers helps offset the sales drop-off, however.
“A lot of older and foreign students still hang around during break,” he said. “Also, some people want something to read before hopping on a plane, so there are a few big purchases made before that.”
Other store owners said New Haven inhabitants play a major role in the well-being of local businesses. Paul Cuticello, store manager of Paul Richards, said local residents keep business going and most of his customers are from New Haven or the nearby towns of Orange and Branford.
Urban Outfitters merchandiser Nicole Ruggiero said Yalies are not the only young people who frequent New Haven stores.
“It’s not just Yale students that come to the store,” Ruggiero said. “Local high school students also spend a lot of money over break.”
Area stores also draws students from other local colleges. University Properties has made efforts recently to attract more students from schools such as Southern Connecticut State University, Albertus Magnus College and Quinnipiac University — all within a 10 minute drive of downtown New Haven.
Many store owners in the Chapel District — whose collection of high-end restaurants and boutique stores cater in large part to local residents — said they fare just as well, even though the district does not have any national chains.
Raffael, owner of Group W Bench, said his store has been on Chapel St. for 39 years and is always busy.
“We enjoy having students when they’re here, but we have a wide base of customers,” he said.
All five of University Properties’ national chains are located in the Broadway District: Au Bon Pain, Barnes and Noble, J. Crew, Origins and Urban Outfitters.