San Diego small businesses head into holiday shopping season with optimism … with some trepidation

It’s been a tough few years for small businesses.

After dealing with COVID-19 restrictions for much of 2020 and 2021, inflation, a tough economy and fears of a looming recession may keep shoppers from splurging this holiday shopping season.

San Diego-area store owners kick off small business activity Saturday – Annual plan to encourage consumers to spend money at mom-and-pop stores – A mix of optimism and economic reality.

“It’s like you don’t know how you’re doing every week,” says Doug Yeagley, owner of two businesses in Mission Hills—the Tops Salon hair and hair studio and the adjoining Cinema Under The Stars. The outdoor cinema shows classics and new releases.

“People tell me they have to get their hair done, but they don’t always have to watch the movie. They can watch it on the Internet (or a streaming service). It’s hard, and all you can do is try to make your place look Look radiant, look healthy, and stay positive.”

Craig Maxwell, owner of Maxwell’s House of Books in downtown La Mesa for 20 years, said he doesn’t recall a slow start to the holiday season.

“Normally we’d pick up before Thanksgiving and we’d see a clear uptick in stores and online, but that has slowed down, or at least has been very steady,” said Maxwell, who estimates sales at his stores The amount decreased by 10% compared with last year.

A national survey of more than 5,500 adults commissioned by Intuit QuickBooks reported that 66% of consumers said they will buy fewer gifts during the 2022 holiday season than last year.

That percentage isn’t surprising to Pierre Farhat, who owns Pierre’s Jewels in downtown La Mesa, given high gas and food prices.

Beatrix and Pierre Farhat are the owners of Pierre Jewelers on La Mesa Boulevard.

Beatrix and Pierre Farhat, like many other sole proprietors, have weathered the pandemic and now rising inflation as they prepare for the holidays. The Farhats are the owners of Pierre Jewelers on La Mesa Boulevard.

(Nancee E. Lewis/San Diego Union-Tribune)

“It’s not easy because we sell luxury goods,” he said. “But I think people will leave and everyone will want to buy. They don’t have to buy big gifts or big bucks, but they’ll buy small things.”

His store was one of the La Mesa stores that were looted on May 30, 2020, as a mass protest against police violence and racial injustice turned into a riot. Farhat said his store was closed for more than four months.

“I’ve been doing it for 39 years,” he said. “I’ve been through a lot of tough times.”

Jesse Zmuda, owner of Mission Hills Backbone Floral, said she is tweaking her pricing and sending out more emails and coupons to entice customers.Her boutique sells fresh and dried flowers, vintage clothing, cards and art handcrafted in the USA

“Shopping locally is really important, people don’t realize how excited I am when I buy something. It’s a big deal for us,” Zmuda said.

Around the corner, Hailey Powell, co-owner of La Puerta Mexican Bistro, said sales are about 20% lower in the winter than in the summer, but she hopes the expanded space for private holiday parties will help fill the funding gap .

“We’re very optimistic,” heading into the holidays, she said. “I’m not sure how other people do it, but we just focus on what we’re doing and don’t worry about what other people are doing.”

The shopping season started with some exciting news—Adobe Analytics reported that U.S. shoppers spent nearly 3 percent more online this Thanksgiving than last year. Consumer Transactions Research reported sales of $5.29 billion.

With Rorschach the black cat dozing off on the counter at his La Mesa bookstore, Maxwell said a strong holiday shopping season won’t make or break his business. “But it’s definitely the icing on the cake at the end of the year. If that’s taken away,” he said with a wry smile, “we’re left with dough.”

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