Sidewalk Sale Days Malaise
Midland Park's annual Sidewalk Sale Days came and went, but with the exception of a handful of shops, the sidewalks remained empty. In this down economy, with vacant storefronts sprinkled throughout the borough, the opportunity for retailers to bring in more foot traffic seemed like a no-brainer. Instead it was mostly a no-show.
At the Midland Park Shopping Center on a beautiful Friday afternoon, three businesses had an outside presence: Marty's, Chandel Jewelers and Ethos. On the other end of town, upscale men's clothing store Sal Lauretta had four tents of merchandise out for all three days of the annual sale. Meanwhile, Ridgewood sidewalks were bustling with virtually every village retailer holding business in the open air.
The Midland Park Sidewalk Sale Days are sponsored by the Midland Park Chamber of Commerce, the borough's business organization that has remained largely inactive for the past several years.
This year's sidewalk sale was promoted primarily through a special advertising section in the Villadom Times, which features ads from a dozen borough businesses—retailers Sal Lauretta, the Gingerbread Consignment Shop and A&A Natural Food Center; service-based businesses Ethos, Family Hair Care, House of Nails, BNR Auto Detailing, Antique Clock Repair, Mayfair Windows and Lynn's Pet Care, and Atlantic Stewardship Bank.
Midland Park Press spoke with local business owners to find out what they thought about the Sidewalk Sale and found retailers either weren't aware of the sale until the last minute, didn't think it was worth additional staffing costs, thought they could only participate if they bought advertising in The Villadom or were too busy or short staffed to put together a table.
"To do a Sidewalk Sale the right way, ideally, you want to start planning at least 30-days out," said Chandel Jewelers owner John Gretkowski, who learned of the sale the Friday before the event. "That makes it difficult to plan it, promote it and execute it effectively."
Though it was too late to advertise for a sidewalk sale, the jeweler decided to participate anyway, by extending their July Sale through the first three days of August. Having merchandise out on the sidewalk brought more people in to the store.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Sidewalk Sale Days were a busy time for business, but over the past 10 years it has fallen to the wayside. Some blame the proliferation of chain retailers for the demise.
"We used to have more independent stores and we played off each other. Now you have a lot of chain retailers," Gretkowski explained. "It takes time, effort, planning, patience and hard work to do a sidewalk sale right. Corporate-owned businesses with rotating managers who's salary is not directly tied the bottom line aren't motivated to participate."
Others merchants blame the lack of participation on poor planning and promotion by the Chamber of Commerce. Back in the sidewalk sales' heyday, Chamber representatives would talk to businesses in May and ask retailers which week would be best for them.
The Chamber has been largely inactive for the past few years and hasn't had a formal meeting in quite some time. When Midland Park Press sat down with Chamber President Christopher Rossi in February, he cited the loss of their regular meeting space and many mom-and-pop stores being replaced by chain retailers as reasons for the organizations lack of activity.
Did you shop in the sidewalk sale? Tell us in the comments!