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Calendar quirk puts added pressure on Shop Falmouth

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Calendar quirk puts added pressure on Shop Falmouth

FALMOUTH — This year's shortened Christmas shopping season has some retailers worried, but a successful three-day shopping event could help relieve the concern.

Shop Falmouth, in its second year, begins Friday and continues through Sunday, with more than 40 businesses offering deals and promotions to encourage shoppers to "buy local." On Saturday, organizers will also offer free child care for six hours, so parents can "drop and shop."

Lucky D'Ascanio, director of Parks and Community Programs, said this year's event seeks to build momentum from 2012, which was successful in terms of raising awareness, if not financially.

The event follows on the heels of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, a weekend of shopping events that were generally positive, according to Falmouth business owners.

Their big concern, however, is how having only 27 shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas will affect sales.

Most years, there are five weekends between the two holidays; this year, there are only four.

Julie Steinbach, owner of Rainbow Toys, said the weekend after Thanksgiving produced strong sales, equal to last year's. But she's still concerned about the reduced number of shopping days.

Psychology plays a big role in retail sales, as does the duration between holidays, Steinbach said.

For example, toy sales around Easter are slower when the holiday falls in March, because there are fewer days for parents to save money after Christmas. Also, Easters that fall in April typically result in greater toy sales because the warmer weather gets parents thinking about outdoor toys, she said.

Despite the short Christmas shopping season, Steinbach said she's optimistic about Shop Falmouth.

"I'm a huge fan of anything that promotes shopping locally," she said.

Rainbow Toys is one of the 42 businesses participating this year. A list of the businesses is available through the town's website or on fliers that will be distributed during the 27th annual Falmouth Community Tree Lighting, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5, at Village Park, behind Wal-Mart.

Shay Johnson, owner of Sashay's clothing store, said Shop Falmouth coincides with her annual open house on Friday, which features free refreshments and door prizes.

Johnson said sales after Thanksgiving were average at her store, and she is concerned about the limited number of days before Christmas.

"To be perfectly honest, I look around and say, 'Wow, I have a ton of inventory.' I don't know if, for some people, (the season) is not registering yet, or if it's a sign of the economy. I have no idea," she said. "Hopefully (Shop Falmouth) will be a nice boost."

Nearby, Cork and Barrel will host a free wine tasting from 3-5 p.m. Saturday, plus discounts on select items.

The store had a record-setting sales weekend after Thanksgiving, according to employee Chris Rothweiler.

"It was fabulous," she said. "There were more people in here on Black Friday than usual. And Saturday was wonderful."

Nonetheless, she's still worried about the shortened shopping season.

"We're hoping that all the advertising for Shop Falmouth pays off," she said.

D'Ascanio said Shop Falmouth was hatched in 2012 by the Falmouth Economic Improvement Committee. In its first year, 44 businesses participated.

The lower number this year is due to a variety of factors, D'Ascanio said. One business moved to Yarmouth, for example. Several health-care businesses decided not to participate, because those businesses don't mesh well with holiday events. A number of other businesses are new to the program this year.

Also new this year is the decision to offer child care, called Drop and Shop, on Saturday morning and afternoon instead of Friday night.

"We thought this year we would have an all-day option. Perhaps that will encourage people to participate," D'Ascanio said.

The child care is offered from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday at Motz School, 192 Middle Road. The children will be watched by staff from Falmouth Parks and Community Program. Lunch will be provided between noon and 1 p.m.

The child care costs $15; however, the cost will be waived for parents who present a sales receipt from a Falmouth business that shows a purchase from Friday or Saturday. 

Steinbach said the free child care might give retailers a brief edge over online retailers. Drop and Shop provides parents with the same ease of shopping, but also adds a hint of community spirit to the proceedings.

Community, she said, is one key to keeping local businesses thriving. The other is the stores themselves.

"You can't compete on price anymore with the big box stores or online," she said. "I have to have a lot of variety and I have to have great customer service."

Ben McCanna can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or bmccanna@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @BenMcCanna.