After surviving the pandemic recession that forced a number of other Hyde Park businesses to close, two independent retailers had good Black Fridays and Small Business Saturdays this year.
Eric Williams of The Silver Room, 1506 E. 53rd St., said his store this weekend was maybe 10% less busy on Black Friday and 10% more busy on Saturday compared to last year.
"I think part of that is because there was a big push and conversation around the murder of George Floyd, and a lot of people were looking to support for Black Friday," said Williams. "Even the city had this initiative about 'shopping Black for Black Friday.'"
The Silver Room sees somewhere between a fifth and a quarter of its holiday sales on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving, Williams said. More than half of his customers who come into the store from now until Christmas end up buying gifts, he said, and in recent years — and especially beginning last year — there have been more corporate buyers.
Speaking earlier in November to the Herald, South East Chicago Commission Executive Director Diane Burnham said her business development organization moved up its holiday promotion, the Shop Local campaign, from Nov. 8 through Dec. 6. Burnham said businesses told the SECC that many of their customers were already done with the holiday shopping by Thanksgiving.
Williams said that, while the holiday shopping season has always traditionally begun right after Thanksgiving, online shoppers have traditionally waited until the last minute. The week before Christmas is The Silver Room's busiest time of year.
Not this year, though, with supply chain disruptions and all-around limited store inventory. He also expects many people will continue trying to avoid crowds in light of the still-ongoing pandemic.
"People have definitely started thinking about shopping earlier," he said, "and not relying on just buying online, because if you buy in person, then you're guaranteed to get it. So I think that has been a shift in behavior also."
Toys et Cetera, 1502 E. 55th St., had "fabulous" Friday and Saturday, double that of 2019 and one of its best ever. Owner Nancy Stanek said customers were eager both because of the typical post-Thanksgiving urge to shop as well as "a panic that there aren't going to be things left if they wait."
Reporting on continuing issues with the worldwide supply chain disruption have consumers spooked, she said, but others "were just happy to get out and start shopping," she said. "Usually Hyde Parkers wait and get out at the last minute, but I don't think it's going to be the case this year."
Toys et Cetera clerks reported a hectic two days of work.
"We had two people manning the registers, everybody else wrapping. Just constant, constant," said Andrea Loredo. "Then we'd have maybe 20 minutes of rest before it'd start up again."
"It was just a lot of people wanting to get shopping done, rather than a lot of people being aggressive," Loredo said.
Her colleague, Stefanos Johnson, described the tenor as "Busy, but everybody was pretty much happy to be getting what they need for the holidays out of the way. It wasn't anything too crazy. Everybody respected boundaries and whatnot."
Stanek is beginning to worry about whether she will have enough merchandise for the rest of the holiday season. Her inventory is running low, and at this point, she typically has her whole supply for the season, but orders she placed on backordered goods are slowly coming in.
"I think it's going to be a very good holiday season," she said. "And this has been a very good year. Our January and February were down, and then March came, and people really started shopping again."
Recent data from the U.S. Department of Commerce showed that consumer spending increased over the fall, 1.3% in October from 0.6% in September, though prices are still rising due to inflation. Spending dropped significantly in 2020 because of the pandemic, and many people saved, giving many Americans money to spend this year.