Local clothing stores a point above
October 16 — Theresa Stuckart credits trust and customer relationships for the success of New Laundry, a women’s clothing store in Scranton.
“I know my clients and have established a personal relationship with them,” she said. “They know they’ll get great service and attention to detail when they walk in. I’m here to help people and that’s what you get with these little shops. You don’t get that with the shops at big surface.”
Stuckart, owner of the store at 127 N. Washington Ave., also thinks the group of downtown Scranton clothing retailers complement each other well.
“If I can’t help a customer or don’t have what they’re looking for, I send them to the other stores in town,” she said. “I think the more stores there are with more variety, that’s all the more reason people come to downtown Scranton to shop.”
Stuckart noted that advancements in technology have also been key to the continued growth of his store.
“Social media is a game-changer for small businesses,” she said. “I think you need to be on social media to let people know what you have. Online shopping has also become a big part of business, I think you need to make that available to customers.”
She acknowledges that rising inflation has created challenges for shoppers, as food and gas prices have skyrocketed, and remains committed to helping all customers find something that fits their budget.
“I think people are nervous, but depending on what they want to spend, I think I can achieve that,” Stuckart said. “I try to vary the prices…that’s what I’ve been trying to do since I’ve owned the store.”
Burt Flickinger III, chief executive of Strategic Resource Group, a New York-based retail and consumer goods consulting firm, said product quality and variety set small apparel retailers apart from big corporations.
“They tend to have better made and better designed clothes,” he said. “It’s not the ‘sea of similarity’ coming from mainland China and Asia-Pacific businesses where there’s a high synthetic oil content mixed into the fabric. With the consolidation of national chains like JCPenney, Macy’s and Kohl’s and many specialty stores, they’ve tended to work with the same vendors, designers, and salespeople, so there’s not a lot of differentiation.
Flickinger also pointed out that local drapers and merchants often have better values, prices and variety.
“They have a better sense of pay cycles within the community, county and region, and they tend to promote their larger sales,” he said. “Local merchants usually have a wider range of sizes, including larger sizes that national and international chains don’t often carry.”
Flickinger’s company conducted searches across the country, including Lackawanna and Wyoming counties, and found that Walmart had stopped supporting local and professional sports teams.
“They said they tend to do a big delivery for the season and when it sells out they don’t reorder anymore,” he said.
Meanwhile, Tim Wagner, owner of Tim Wagner’s Sports Corner at 1827 Sanderson Ave. in the Green Ridge section of Scranton, has established a loyal following for over three decades by providing apparel options for a wide selection of professional and varsity teams.
“That’s one of the reasons I’ve been around for so long,” he said. “The focus is on local teams, but I have something for just about every team. I know most people who come by first name because they’ve been coming for so long.”
Leslie Collins, President and CEO of Scranton Tomorrow, a non-profit community and economic development organization, has been encouraged by the emergence of new businesses and the growth of others.
“We are seeing an increase in retail startups and the expansion of existing businesses in the downtown district,” she said. “We are thrilled with the opportunity this brings to our community as a whole.”
Collins praised local retailers for their resilience during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
“We discovered during COVID that small business clothing stores are very flexible, probably more flexible than they knew in their own business model,” she said. “They have an incredible understanding of their customer base and they have been able to adapt very quickly to meet their customer needs and their own financial viability.”
She also believes the effects of the pandemic have heightened the importance of convenience stores among area residents.
“I think it was a reminder that small businesses really are the backbone of our communities,” Collins said. “They provide expertise and personalized service, they employ a local workforce, and they have unique items. More importantly, they keep revenue within our own community.”
Justin Amendolaro, owner of Amendolaro, a modern boutique located at 412 Biden St., strives to offer all of the newest and most popular styles in his boutique and appreciates the community’s ongoing supportive community.
“I try to get everything trendy and trendy,” he said. “It’s almost like a one-stop shop. We have such a variety of products and our customers have been great. I think they know how hard it is for small businesses to stay afloat these days.”
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