SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 15, 2012

Reaping the benefits

In Salem, even non-Halloween retailers like October

BY TOM DALTON STAFF WRITER
The Salem News

---- — SALEM — It has been so busy on October weekends at Re-find, a women’s clothing boutique on Washington Street, that they posted the train schedule inside the store.

Why?

“We make sure there are no bathroom breaks (for the staff) ... when the train is coming,” co-owner Shelley Matthews said with a laugh.

Matthews was only partially joking. Although bathroom breaks are permitted, she does want her staff to be aware of the train schedule so they can handle the Halloween crowds efficiently, allowing customers time to shop — and buy — and still make the train back to Boston or other destinations.

It has been a crazy Halloween season at Re-find and several other retail stores that don’t cater to the traditional Halloween crowds that come for haunted houses or fortunetellers. But when the crowds come for the holiday fun, many retailers benefit.

“We had absolutely the most amazing Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” Matthews said in an interview last week. “It was a record-breaking weekend.”

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that she has two stores, including Re-find Men’s on Essex Street.

While the Re-find stores are relatively new, there are some vintage Salem retailers that also welcome the Haunted Happenings season.

“It’s the busiest month of the year for us,” said Ted Monroe, co-owner of Derby Square Book Store, which is in its 38th year.

The bookstore, as locals know, is something of an attraction all on its own. Books are stacked in piles that reach almost to the ceiling and look as if they could topple at any moment. Even at the checkout counter, books are stacked several feet high, forcing Monroe to peer out at customers through a narrow peephole.

“I think the store is enough of a curiosity that people tend to wander in,” he said. “The fact we’re next to The Magic Parlor doesn’t hurt.”

Bernard’s Jewelers, founded in 1934, is on the Essex Street pedestrian mall — ground zero for Halloween visitors.

“It’s not a negative thing at all,” co-owner Ray Tetrault said of the fall season. “We do a lot of good business from the Halloween crowds. It’s a good thing for the whole city.”

Customers buy sterling silver witch charms and gourds carved into Halloween characters, but they also purchase fine jewelry. And some return year after year for Halloween — and shopping — in Salem.

“We have one couple from upstate New York who say we’re their first stop,” Tetrault said.

For some store owners, October is not the best month, but it still produces strong sales that help carry them through an often-slow winter.

“Oh, we love it,” said Kate Leavy, co-owner of three stores — Beehive and Roost, both on Front Street, and Scrub, a bath and body store on Essex Street. “Anytime you have this many feet on the ground,” it means “more feet coming through the door.”

For other retailers, however, it is a slow month. Their regular customers tend to stay away because of the crowds, and the visitors that are here don’t usually buy the more expensive items.

“We sell like T-shirts and water bottles” with the store’s witch logo, said Dan Shuman of Salem Cycle on Washington Street. “We don’t sell any bikes.”

On the bright side, Shuman said that out of a case of 144 hats with the store’s witch logo, he had only two left.

Bill Avellis of The Bootery, a women’s shoe store on the pedestrian mall, said October is not a boon month.

“Not really,” he said. “My stuff starts at $30, $40 and $50. They like T-shirts.”

Avellis conceded that he may get a 10 percent bump in business, but not much more. The increase, he said, is “not enough to make me say, ‘Whoa!’”

It’s a different story at many other shops, which put out special items for Halloween shoppers and which see sales climb from the sheer volume of traffic. That’s certainly been the case at Re-find, which sells Halloween socks along with new and used clothing.

“I doubled my sales on Saturday from last year,” Matthews said.

Tom Dalton can be reached at tdalton@salemnews.com.