While market watchers worry about the effects of Sept. 11 on holiday shopping, Queens retail centers reported that the borough did go out and shop, but some neighborhoods got more traffic than others.
Western Queens neighborhoods did extremely well, while parts of Central and Eastern Queens were a bit slower. Queens Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Lucy Nunziato expected the difference, and said, “Different areas have different people. Some will shop and some won’t in bad economic times. I think there will be huge variation this year, both by neighborhood and by time. Each week there will be different results.”
Nunziato add that although she expects the economy to be slower this season “So far, retail stores seem alright.”
Variation in Northeast Queens
The first weekend of holiday shopping brought big crowds to Flushing but stores in Bayside were quiet. Bayside Business Association President Judy Limpert said that on her shopping strip, the economy seems “very slow.
“I don’t have specifics, but I know the stores were quiet. Definitely down from last year. People don’t want to be in crowded areas now.”
However Flushing Chinese Business Association President Fred Fu reported opposite results. “We were packed,” he said. He added that the new Flushing Mall increased traffic from last year.
In Eastern Queens, business was “average” for a holiday weekend. A representative from K-Mart in Fresh Meadows said business was, “Decent. Better than usual but not as high as a regular holiday.”
An employee of Toys ‘R Us in Douglaston added, “It was pretty crowded, but we always get bigger crowds for a holiday weekend. It was average.” The week before Thanksgiving, however, lines of parents could be seen outside the Toys ‘R Us waiting for Microsoft’s new X-Box video game system.
Both ‘Brisk’ and Bust in Central Queens
In Rego Park, shoppers got their holiday shopping done early this year, according to Community Board 10 District Manager Rose Pepe, who said business on the commercial strip of Liberty Avenue was “brisk” during Thanksgiving weekend.
Austin Street in Forest Hills, on the other hand, did not do well according to the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce. “Business was not good,” one representative said. She added that business was down “quite a bit” from last year.
Lines Out the Door in Western Queens
Western Queens businesses didn’t have any problems selling merchandise during the holiday weekend, with shoppers lining up at 5 a.m. outside of Queens Center Mall on Nov. 23, waiting to get into the K-B Toy Store, which was running a sale until 12 noon.
Mall Marketing Director Dawn Simon said, “It seems to be business as usual.” Though the traffic counting system is down at the mall, Simon explained that it seems as busy as any holiday shopping season.
“Our retailers are being extremely savvy,” said Simon, explaining that big sales are drawing people in.
Mall hours have been extended to keep up with demand.
Unclear Results in SE Queens
It’s not easy to predict the holiday success of Jamaica merchants based on shopping done over the Thanksgiving holiday, according to Janet Barkan of the Jamaica Business Improvement District (BID).
“Jamaica is a last minute shopping community, although it was busy over the [Thanksgiving] weekend,” Barkan said.
Air travel is currently not going as well as in previous years in Southeast Queens. Due to a significant passenger decrease, the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce reported that John F. Kennedy International Airport is doing “very poor.”
— Nick Abadjian, Arlene Lewis, Angela Montefinise and Michelle Sellers contributed to this story.
Experts Focus On Building Queens Retail
BY ANGELA MONTEFINISE
The Queens County Overall Economic Development Corporation (QCOEDC) is trying to unite Queens’ diverse and independent retail districts by creating a map of the borough’s shopping hot spots, but some marketing experts think that while the idea is good, the execution just won’t work.
This QCOEDC map of 10 Queens shopping district was created to illustrate the borough’s shopping hotspots.
As the Tribune went to press, the QCOEDC was making plans for a Borough Hall press conference Nov. 29 to introduce a new cooperative initiative entitled, “Shop Queens, Shop the World.” The initiative promotes unity amongst 10 different Queens business districts in the hope that customers will become aware of commercial strips outside of their own neighborhoods.
QCOEDC Executive Director Marie Nahikian explained to the Tribune that participating shopping districts will be given a map created by the Corporation which they can give to their customers. The map marks the 10 different business districts, their subway access, and their ethnic background for cultural shopping.
However, Igor Tomic, an expert on neighborhood economic development and an associate professor of economics and finance at St. John’s University, reviewed the map and, although he likes the concept, believes the Corporation has more to do to develop an effect resource for Queens retail and shoppers.
“The map is good in that it shows exactly where business strips are and how to get there, but there’s no detail . . . As a merchant, this map, as it is, would not necessarily provoke me to go to another Queens district because I can’t tell what’s there. The goal is wonderful, and it would improve business, but I’m not sure it will be accomplished through this map.”
Nahikian responded, “I am very fond of the map. I think it will work well. Of course this is our first try, so we have to get feedback to make it better each year. We already have gotten suggestions from our businesses about next year, but I can’t tell you those. They’re top secret.” Nahikian added that the map — if it does come out next year — will be released during Thanksgiving weekend 2002.
The Corporation, which has been around for 20 years, used its own funding and corporate contributions to print approximately 30,000 maps to give participating stores through their local business groups. The maps, which cost between $10,000 and $20,000 to produce, will be placed in stands in participating stores so shoppers can pick them up and see other places in Queens to buy gifts. The hope is that if a resident can’t find want they’re looking for in one area, they’ll see the map and go somewhere else in Queens.
The shopping districts included in the new initiative are Woodhaven, Flushing, Jackson Heights, Astoria, Ridgewood, Richmond Hill, Rockaway, Forest Hills, Sunnyside, and Jamaica. Chambers of Commerce, Business Improvement Districts, business associations, and merchant groups in those areas were contacted by the QCOEDC and asked to participate in the initiative. Nahikian explained that some major districts, including Bayside, were left out in the corporation’s haste to pull the initiative together. “We really tried to do this quickly to respond to Sept. 11’s economic implications,” Nahikian said. “We may have missed a few districts.”
Nahikian said, “Traditionally, Queens business districts have been very independent, and don’t work to promote each other. We think that’s a mistake . . . Our districts are extremely diverse, and each one has its own flavor to offer shoppers. We have to create awareness of the differences.”
Queens Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Lucy Nunziato added another question about the plan, saying the loyalty of consumers may keep them from shopping in new neighborhoods. “There is a tremendous amount of pride in Queens neighborhoods,” she said. “It’s not going to be easy to convince people to go to other areas to shop.”
She added, “If it does work, though, it will be extremely beneficial to Queens. Merchants should promote the county as well as their individual neighborhoods, just like every other borough does. I think it’s a perfect time for Queens businesses to start a trend of working together to promote their county.”
St. John’s University Associate Professor William Schulete, director of the school’s Institute of Entrepreneurship, said the map is “a great idea,” with “excellent concepts behind it.” He declined to comment on the look of the map because he is not trained in graphics.
Seth Bornstein, director of economic development for the Queens Borough President’s Office, said the maps were, “Great,” and “Could definitely help business in Queens,” but added, “This was done in a hurry. It’s a good starting point. Maybe more can be done with it in the future.”
Tomic added, “The map is an excellent place to start. The group’s idea is noble, and it will work if done correctly. They are trying, and that’s commendable, especially with the state of the economy.”