I came into 2019 feeling optimistic. We had just had our first solid year since we moved to our new location. These feelings of optimism continued to grow when we had great sales in the spring, solid sales in the summer and just slightly lower sales in the fall. But we were still up compared to the previous year to date! Then November came. I watched that percentage become smaller and smaller. We could not even get close to our previous November’s sales – sometimes being down 15 to 20% for the month. The first three weeks of November were nerve-wracking and depressing. With every year, I have become more concerned with how online sales are affecting the toy industry and have always hoped that our stellar customer service and sense of community would keep customers coming through our doors. However, we started to see more evidence that some shoppers were just using us as a show room so they could go buy things online. Exit plans began to creep into my thoughts. I became obsessed with reading articles in the news about the “Death of Retail Stores.” When thinking of the upcoming Holiday season I was afraid to feel cautiously optimistic, but was still cautiously hopeful.
The weekend before Thanksgiving was good – it cut our percentage behind the previous year down to 10%. However, being down for the second biggest sales month of the year was still quite concerning. I started to think of the other factors that could be contributing to our lack of sales. Thanksgiving was six days later this year than it was last year. Also, Hanukkah started on December 2nd and this year it does not start until December 22nd. I hoped that it was just the calendar skewing our sales because if this downward trend continued into December, we would have to do some serious thinking about the future of the Fairhaven Toy Garden.
Then Black Friday finally arrived. The morning started out a little tense because we were a little slower than usual, plus we were short one functional receipt printer and down one employee. But by afternoon we were slammed. Even with the slow start we managed to just barely beat the previous year’s Black Friday sales. I came into Small Business Saturday and consequently the last day of November, with great anticipation. The day started out with a bang and the entire day was a blur. We beat the previous year’s sales, hours before closing and ended the day with a record breaking Small Business Saturday. Although we did not make up for our entire percentage down, we did manage to end less than 2% down for the month of November.
I don’t work as much in the store as I would like to as I am often upstairs in the office preoccupied with bookkeeping, ordering and all the other behind the scenes things that have to be done to run a business. Last weekend I had the pleasure of working in the store and felt great appreciation for all of the people that came in to allow us to fulfill their holiday gift needs. I also was proud of how well our staff worked together as a team to keep everything running smoothly despite having a broken receipt printer. Everyone hustled all day long and made great gift suggestions to our shoppers. Our closer even stayed open 15 minutes late for an out of town family to come in and shop. I went home that evening relieved and hopeful for good December sales. I want to thank all of you for shopping at Fairhaven Toy Garden last weekend I and I hope you will continue to support local businesses in our community!