With Black Friday and the Christmas shopping season as a whole looming, local small businesses are gearing up to get customer attention, to bring folks into their establishments and give them deals and service that may no be so available in the cyber world and big box store worlds.
The Herald News recently visited three diverse businesses – Burns Power Tools, The Ski House, and Jorge’s Creations. The owners were more than happy to talk to you about what they’re up to this special shopping season.
Specializing in tools of all kinds and staff know-how
One might think that a business such as Burns, which does 80% to 90% of its business with contractors, would not be concerned with the Christmas shopping season. Well, the company has a history of special marketing each December and this season may even add specific Black Friday promotions into its mix.
Burned out of its leased facility on Mariano Bishop Boulevard in Fall River last November, Burns Power Tools has relocated to a far-less conspicuous location in a small complex at 590 Fish Road in Tiverton where their building is barely visible from the street. They are keeping their eyes open for a possible new home.
Since the 1990s, Burns has annually held a multiple-day, open house sales event, complete with dealers – including major power tool players DeWalt, Milwaukee, Makita – having representatives on site. For two-plus decades, it was a Friday-Saturday event. Covid prompted a schedule change. Burns spread things out, turning their open house into a work-week-long event. This year, it runs Dec. 4 through Dec. 8. Homeowners are most welcome.
Most major brands will be discounted by 20 percent, customers getting free batteries with most cordless tool purchases. And cordless tools, fourth-generation owner Zach Burns explained, are favorites of homeowners.
“Those 20 and 15 percent discounts are very significant,” he said.
Burns has a gift guide on its website (www.burnstools.com/deals-arrivals/gift-ideas).
The event week schedule with factory reps on hand is as follows: Monday, Dec. 4: Milwaukee.; Tuesday, Dec. 5: Metabo HTP/Hitachi.; Wednesday, Dec. 6: DeWalt/Stanley.; Thursday, Dec. 7: Fein/Occidental; Friday, De. 8: Makita.
Customers interested in the discounts, but not interested in the potential crowds and on-site wait, may call in their orders and pick up any time.
Burns said his veteran staff is ready to help any customer looking to buy a cool tool for someone on their shopping list, or for themselves. She or he might use the holiday the season to, perhaps, justify that upgrade to a Festool sander.
“We were able to keep our staff intact after the fire,” Zach Burns said. “Their average tenure; 10, 15 years. They know what they’re doing.”
Burns said he is leaning heavily toward also doing a one-day, Black Friday sale. “I think it’s a good idea to put out some real good deals,” he said.
Get geared up for ski season, or cold weather fun
Heading into his second ski season as owner of The Ski House, Zachary Pavao, 27, sounds pumped up about his products, his service and some extra special deals that might pop up the day after Thanksgiving.
Even without Christmas, The Ski House, at 1241 Wilbur Ave., Swansea, would be hopping from late November and into December as that’s the lead-in to the ski season. Throw in the holiday, and things in Pavao’s words, can get “insanely busy. Non-stop. Late nights. Christmas is definitely our busiest time of the year.”
Pavao was a Ski House employee for eight years before buying the business from John Riley, who now works there part time.
The Ski House ran a sale Nov. 9-12 to get business generated. Pavao said he is very seriously considering the start of a new sales wrinkle. A little Black Friday action.
“We haven’t in the past. But I was actually thinking about running a one-day sale for that day this year,” said Pavao, who earned a degree in business management from UMass Dartmouth. “We’ve never done anything and I thought it was a little bit of a missed opportunity. I want to capitalize on that, hopefully, this year.”
As so many in Greater Fall River know, The Ski House is a two-story operation. The basement is home to ski equipment sales and rentals and repairs and tune-ups. Upstairs is clothing, outer and inner wear.
Pavao said The Ski House takes pride in helping its customers pull off Christmas surprises. A new pair of ski boots under the tree is much more exciting than a gift certificate. “We can do our best guesses, get them that boot, and then after Christmas, we tell them come back in,” he said. “We’re going to re-size him. Even if the boot feels good, we’ll re-size him and make sure everything’s perfect.”
The Ski House clientele is not limited to skiers. Some customers never go downstairs. Upstairs, employee Kathy Worthern has 40-plus years of Ski House experience. Bryan Botelho has been there for almost two decades. Pavao does not hesitate to label them experts.
Unique boutique in the heart of Somerset
Back in October, Jorge’s Creations owner Jorge Wilhelm gassed up his business for the holiday season with one of his clothing/accessory buying trips to Manhattan. His store, tastefully crowded with women’s accessories and jewelry, is ready for its busiest time of the year.
A native of Brazil, Wilhelm said this is the time of the year when the community likes to show its support for small local businesses, He said he does his best to justify that support with high-quality products, many of them imported, at affordable prices. He offers boutique clothing and jewelry at non-boutique prices.
“The more stuff people buy, the more I take money off,” Wilhelm said recently. “Sometime businesses say 25% off, 40% off. Over here, buy a piece, it’s $25, I take $5 off. They leave here and got a good deal.”
He said he keeps his prices down to compete with the likes of Marshalls and TJ Maxx. And he praises those chain stores for their quality products. During the 12 years he’s run Jorge’s Creations – six in Fall River, six in Somerset – Wilhelm, 60, has operated with a rule one probably won’t find in any retailing textbooks. He said if he senses a customer wants to buy an item or items just for the sake of buying something, he’ll tell the customer to hold onto her or his money.
“If you’re going to buy just to buy, what’s the point?” he said. “If you really like it, buy it to wear, go for it. But if you’re buying one to buy, don’t do it.”
A 1988 immigrant to the United States, Wilhelm said his mother and all four sisters were classy dressers and he couldn’t help but learn fashion from them.
Wilhelm gets especially excited talking about his imports from Italy and India, and about the reversible pants and jackets and vests. He proudly pointed to his scarf-ring-bracelet packages for $25 as idea gifts. In one such package, the bracelet alone had a $26 price tag.
Customer service is also important with Wilhelm. He said if a piece of jewelry breaks he fixes it for free. Three months after purchasing a piece of jewelry, a customer came into Jorge’s Creations, without a receipt, saying she now found the piece too heavy. Wilhelm said he cheerfully gave her store credit.
“I am very flexible with my customers,” he said. “They are very happy.”
A full-time second-shift worker at Rhode Island College, Wilhelm opens his business doors from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.
For Black Friday, he said, he plans to extend his business hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jorge’s Creations is located at 968 County St., Somerset.