Local retailers bank on big holiday season for overall success

This will be Ashley Whitaker’s first Christmas shopping season as owner of Added Accents in Downtown Sanford. She’s fully aware of the weight the final two months of the year carry when it comes to running a small business.

“If you don’t get the customers in November and December, then you’re going to struggle next year,” says Whitaker, who purchased the boutique in August. “December’s a huge month for us, but it really got started on Nov. 2 with Downtown Sanford’s Holiday Open House. It progressively gets busier and busier from there.”

While Nov. 30 was officially Small Business Saturday, it’s important to the economy that locally owned businesses make up part (or all) of your Christmas shopping throughout the entire month of December. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are more than 28.8 million small businesses (500 employees or fewer), making up 99.7 percent of all businesses in the country. They accounted for 64 percent of all new jobs created in the U.S. between 1993 and 2011.

Added Accents in Downtown Sanford

And when Christmas shoppers spend $100 at a local business, roughly $68 stays in the local economy (compared to $43 at large box retailers, according to a recent study).

Whitaker, a certified public accountant, might be new to owning a small business, but she’s no stranger to retail. Her grandfather ran a clothing store in the Kendale Shopping Center in Sanford in the 1960s, and her uncle owned Ron’s, a downtown men’s and women’s clothing store that ran for decades.

“Retail has always been in my blood,” she says. “Becoming a business owner was kind of my next big step.”

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The merchandise at Added Accents — clothing, jewelry, home decor and much, much more — becomes much more festive during the holiday season. Despite the change in ownership, the merchandise has remained true in terms of theme.

“Added Accents has made a name for itself here, and I wanted to stay true to that,” Whitaker says. “So it’s more of the same, but with my own little spin on it. We’ve brought in new vendors and tried new things.”

One thing that’s changed is their neighbors — The Purple Poodle Co. next door at 128 S. Steele St. is a self-described “whimsical boutique” offering clothing and an ever-changing variety of accessories and housewares (they don’t restock when items sell out, to keep the merchandise “fresh and different”). Owners Nicole and Tim Allen opened the store in November, meaning they jumped right in to an important stretch of the retail calendar.

The Purple Poodle Co. in Downtown Sanford

“It’s important because it’s our first months as a business, and the holiday season is a driving force for the entire year,” says Nicole, whose merchandise is a blend of local and national vendors (Made in the USA is important to the Allens). 

Added Accents and Purple Poole Co. are among a handful of boutiques downtown that have taken advantage of Downtown Sanford’s annual Holiday Open House in early November and the recent business boom over the last few years.

“The foot traffic downtown has grown tremendously,” Whitaker says. “That growth made my decision [to buy the business] so much easier.”

“We’ve seen the changes downtown, and that played an important role in our decision to come here,” Allen adds. “Things are moving in the right direction here — the other day we met a customer who found us because they came in from Cary to eat at Smoke and Barrel. It’s exciting to see people from other cities come in to see what we have to offer.”

— by Billy Liggett


Support these small business retailers who support The Rant this holiday season (and look for their ads in this edition):

Added Accents

Downtown Sanford boutique

The Purple Poodle Co.

Downtown Sanford boutique

Mockingbird Blues

Online women’s clothing boutique

Sanford Antique Mall

Downtown Sanford antique store

Your CBD Store

Award-winning CBD health products

Broadway Hardware & Supply Co.

Locally owned and operated

Mid-Pines Hosiery Sock Outlet

Socks for everyone on your gift list

The Cabana

Beauty, mass and sunless studio

The Chocolate Cellar

Gourmet chocolates and gifts

J.R. Moore and Son

Country store with a little bit of everything