Local: Shops use customer service to draw in shoppers

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Stacy Vogel
Saturday, November 28, 2009
— When hard-core Black Friday shoppers were leaving home before dawn Friday, Keith Pearce was snug in his bed.

His shop, Bay Design Co., 1727 Newport Ave., opened at its normal time of 10 a.m. Friday.

“We’re a destination for many shoppers, and 10 o’clock is plenty early for them,” he said.

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, when many retailers hope to break even or go “in the black” for the year, is different for local, independent stores.

Many can’t compete with the “doorbusters” offered at national chains and see no reason to open at 4 or 5 a.m. Instead, they work to attract customers through good customer service and distinctive selection.

Raven’s Wish, an art and framing store at 2871 Liberty Lane, opened at 10 a.m. Friday. It had a few customers picking up orders and browsing the artwork in the first hours, but nothing like the crowds at the mall.

And that’s fine with owner Alicia Reid.

“Folks that have been in I think seek us out that morning because it is a little bit more tranquil,” she said.

The store offers work from 55 artists and showcased colorful paintings, photographs, pottery and glasswork Friday.

“When (customers) find something here, they know it’s going to be one-of-a-kind,” Reid said.

The store goes to great lengths to offer quality customer service, she said.

Friday, a regular customer picked up a framed photo collage for her granddaughter. Reid rushed the order so the customer would have it in time for her granddaughter’s birthday party today.

Customer service is key at Book World, 2451 Milton Ave., owner Rene Purnell said. The store offers coupons during the holidays but can’t compete with some of the deep discounts offered at chain bookstores, she said.

“We go to great lengths to get a book for someone, whether it’s out of print or not,” she said. “We have to really provide customer service to compete.”

The store had a steady stream of customers at 10 a.m. but no mad rush. Several customers said they came to Book World because they knew they wouldn’t have to fight the mob at the mall.

Stephanie Wasson of Janesville came to Book World with her son and daughter because her daughter had birthday money to spend.

“We’re just out grabbing a few things and actually trying to avoid the rush,” she said.

Of course, the store got some “Black Friday” spill off, too, Purnell said.

Diana Whalen of Orfordville and her 19-year-old daughter, Kelsey, stopped by to kill time waiting for the line to go down at U.S. Cellular, they said.

Kelsey, who didn’t go to bed Thursday night, crashed on the couch while Diana browsed the shelves. Both enjoyed the free coffee.

“It’s a very lovely place to kill some time,” Diana said.

Independent stores at the Janesville Mall, 2500 Milton Ave., saw even more spill off than most.

Diamond Center, a locally owned jewelry store in the mall, gets plenty of Black Friday traffic, but its busiest time actually is the two weeks before Christmas, said Brenna Sullivan, head of marketing and public relations.

Many shoppers on Black Friday are women taking a break from family purchases to create a “wish list,” she said.

“It’s not a knock-down, drag-out day for us,” she said.

Last updated: 11:51 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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