Will plaid become the new black?
Just about every consumer recognizes the Friday after Thanksgiving as Black Friday, the day bargains galore are supposed to attract shoppers into stores. But while the national chains promote Black Friday incessantly with their big-budget advertising campaigns, the locally owned businesses are trying to carve out their own niches.
Thus, smaller stores in Keene and elsewhere across the country trying to draw customers away from the big department stores are calling it Plaid Friday. It kicks off the Shift Your Shopping campaign, a national movement that encourages consumers to do their holiday shopping locally in order to stimulate the economy and create local jobs.
Monadnock Buy Local, which promotes buying from local businesses and improving the local economy, is on board.
“Monadnock Buy Local has done a great job promoting Plaid Friday,” said Shannon Hundley, manager of Your Kitchen Store in Keene.
She said the store opened Friday at 7 a.m., two hours earlier than usual, and traffic was “very busy” and “steady” throughout the day. “We expected a good turnout and we definitely had it,” Hundley said.
Some of her customers, and her employees, even wore plaid.
Plaid Friday originated in Oakland, Calif., the name derived “from the idea of weaving the individual threads of small businesses together to create a strong fabric that celebrates the diversity and creativity of independent businesses,” according to the Plaid Friday website.
And while businesses on the Internet push the concept of Cyber Monday, Hundley said many people still flock to stores to do their holiday shopping.
“There’s one thing they (consumers) can’t get in a big-box store or online and that’s customer service,” she said.
Ruth Taylor, visiting from Chicago for the Thanksgiving holiday, chose to shop at Your Kitchen Store Friday because she likes the unique products local businesses offer that can’t be found anywhere else.
She said she likes how much smaller and less commercialized businesses such as Your Kitchen Store are compared to big-box stores.
“Finding deals aren’t so important to me,” Taylor said, but she added it’s a plus if she can shop locally and get a bargain.
She said she also chooses to shop in person “because I can actually put something in my hand and feel the quality.”
The Ingenuity Country Store in Central Square is another Keene business participating in Plaid Friday. Owner Dave Sutherland said customers told him they preferred to shop locally instead of going to national chains.
Ingenuity Country Store didn’t open earlier than usual on Friday, but still enjoyed a uptick in business from Plaid Friday shoppers.
Sutherland said in previous years he has opened the store early, but noted the majority of customers come in starting around noon and throughout the afternoon into early evening.
He added he’s not worried about losing customers to Internet shopping because many of the products he offers can’t be found online or in a big-box store.
Ingenuity Country Store calls itself a gift shop on its website and offers products such as New Hampshire-made pottery, key chains, sweatshirts and T-shirts. The store also places a priority on selling products made in New Hampshire or New England.
While he supports what Monadnock Buy Local stands for, Sutherland thinks its message should be advertised more prominently.
“I don’t think they’ve found enough widespread promotion of it,” he said.
For shoppers who participate in Cyber Monday, The Toadstool Bookshop in Keene is hosting an alternative called Cider Monday.
Instead of shopping online, customers can come into the store and grab a cup of apple cider — and then shop the old-fashioned-way.