Local shops reflect on unique holiday season


Local shops in Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley were hoping to take advantage of Christmastime to make up for a tough year for virtually all small businesses.

Joe Holcomb just bought The Mustache, a gift shop in Fayetteville, a few weeks ago, in the middle of the holiday shopping season. It’s been quite a challenge.

“It’s like a whole new business this year,” he said Thursday. “All aspects of business have been turned around.”

In Fort Smith, Bookish: An Indie Shop for Folks Who Read has been open for a couple years. Owner Sara Putman says the pandemic brought some big changes there, as well — partly because more people are reading.

“We’ve seen a lot of people that we didn’t see before,” she said.

In 2020, the livelihood of many local businesses has depended largely on building a strong online presence.

“Shopping trends have changed, definitely,” Holcomb said. “So we’re just trying to follow those and understand what people are looking for now.”

But Holcomb says he saw more in-store shoppers than online this holiday season, and online, business has been the same as it was before the holidays.

“If it’s a scent, some bar of soap or something that people might want to look at or want to touch, maybe they’re not buying it as much online,” he said.

Meanwhile, Putnam re-worked her website so customers can browse her current stock, but it didn’t bear much fruit.

“I don’t think a lot of people know about it yet,” she said. “We didn’t get a lot of sales from that.”

And in-person business was not quite what she was hoping to make up for a summer swoon that hurt the bottom line for 2020.

“It was a little discouraging, but given that we’re in the middle of a real live pandemic, it wasn’t too bad,” Putnam said.

She’s doubled down on 2021, though — increasing her staff heading into the new year.

“I’m optimistic with the vaccine and things like that,” she said.

Putman and Holcomb of course, are not the only ones stressing over holiday performance

“talking to other business owners, it’s been really tough,” Holcomb said.

But they both know the game.

“Every day in retail is a different day,” Putnam said.

You just have to find ways to make it work with what you’ve got,” said Holcomb.

As we close the book on the most unique holiday season in memory, small business owners like these two are looking forward to writing the story of 2021.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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