As another retail business in Bronxville prepares to close – , the clothing and accessories shop has hung signs in its windows announcing the fact – it was good to see Mayor Marvin practicing by having breakfast at the other morning.
Moments later, we chatted with a local retail store owner who said that business has actually been improving, and attributed that success to branding and word-of-mouth, which certainly plays into what the Mayor wrote about local professionals volunteering a helping hand in everything from legal services to advertising and marketing.
That said, a couple of thoughts come to mind. First, while rising rents are almost universally sited as a major factor in the recent shuttering of retail shops in the Village, it also seems that, with a few notable exceptions, like No Stone Unturned, the businesses closing have been those slow to adapt to new media channels, like social media and mobile.
While these tools aren’t a solution in themselves, stores like Andre’s did very little to change their business in the past few years. Take a look at Cornell’s True Value in Eastchester, which has a very active Facebook presence. Is Facebook keeping Cornell’s in business? Hardly, but keeping pace with new marketing and advertising tools at least positions them to take advantage of opportunities, and fend off competitive threats, as they arise.
Another great example, albeit a relatively young one, is , the frozen yogurt shop on Kraft, which uses mobile text messaging to alert loyal customers of exclusive deals and discounts.
The point is, in the current economic climate, businesses are either getting by, or not, on very low margins – every little bit helps, and unless, as a business owner, you’re taking advantage of every opportunity, those margins can wind up on the negative side very easily. And with the lack of capital lending coming from major banks, a business can’t coast through a few down months as they may have in the past.
The second thought is the universe of local shoppers. Certainly, shops in Bronxville’s business district can’t soley rely on the 6,200 residents of the Village “proper” to survive. Foot traffic must come from Eastchester, Yonkers, Mt. Vernon, and beyond.
Destination shops, like and can draw customers from all over Westchester, but stores with more common items, like or the aforementioned Andre’s, are competing in a commoditized marketplace – unless they’re easy to get to and price-competitive, there are many more convenient and welcoming options for shoppers from neighboring towns.
And yes, we said “welcoming”. Bronxville, rightly or wrongly, has a reputation as being a bit elitist – take a look at Tweets about the village from folks in Mt. Vernon and the Bronx, and you’ll see that the theme of unwelcoming comes up frequently. This is certainly not due to the businesses themselves, which we have never witnessed being any less than friendly to non-Bronxvillians.
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But as parking rates increase, enforcement is strict, and events like the Memorial Day Carnival, which is ostensibly open to the public, but charges $25 per child to attend, you might see why folks in neighboring towns might think twice before spending a day in the Village.
Yes, that $25 ticket, or a $4 slice of pizza, are less of an issue for the folks in Bronxville proper (where the median home price is close to $2 million, according to Westchester Magazine) than it is for our neighbors in Yonkers and Mt. Vernon. And it’s become apparent that relying solely on those high earners in the village proper is not enough to sustain many businesses.
What’s the solution? Not an easy one, apparently. But we agree with the Mayor that the community needs to get involved – whether it’s doing more of your shopping locally, taking to business owners about needs that you might be able to advise on, or more simply, making sure that everyone walking on Pondfield, Kraft, Park Place, and Cedar gets a welcome feeling from locals.
We’ll see you on the streets – have a great weekend.