Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

57° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Some Evanston shops see ‘disconcerting’ sales slump ahead of holiday shopping season

Diana+Hamann%2C+who+owns+the+Wine+Goddess+on+Main+Street%2C+says+her+store+saw+its+first+monthly+loss+in+about+three+years.
Shun Graves/The Daily Northwestern
Diana Hamann, who owns the Wine Goddess on Main Street, says her store saw its first monthly loss in about three years.

Foot traffic and revenue at Squeezebox Books & Music on Main Street often fluctuate throughout the year, but the store saw an unusual October scare for sales.

“They’ve probably dropped about 30%,” owner Tim Peterson said. “That’s substantial.”

It’s not the only Evanston outlet seeing a significant sales slump. Several small retailers have begun to struggle over the past month, according to Katherine Gotsick, director of the Main-Dempster Mile business organization.

While not all businesses have seen slumps, Gotsick said enough retailers have raised alarms that the trend could cast a pall over seasonal sales. Evanston business district representatives have told Gotsick about having a “sense” of a general slump.

“It is not just one business. That’s the point,” she said.

Peterson said Squeezebox, which sells both new and used items, has already cut down on buying new stock. Though a promotion that featured live music on Thursdays in October “helped boost the bottom line for sure,” he said sales otherwise declined.

Diana Hamann, owner of the Wine Goddess, said her store saw its first monthly loss in about three years. The “disconcerting” month left her digging into savings to cover expenses, she added, and other Evanston business owners told her they faced similar struggles.

Nationally, consumer spending has remained strong. Despite persistent inflation and interest rate hikes, retail sales rose 0.7% in September, according to the most recent report from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

At Dave’s Rock Shop on Main Street, manager Raquel Berls said October traditionally stands as one of the store’s slowest months for sales, but that enthusiasm should grow as Black Friday and Small Business Saturday approach later this month.

“We started to get holiday shoppers last weekend,” Berls said. “Pretty much every weekend from now, we’re expecting to see an increase.”

The Chicago-Main Newsstand sells newspapers, magazines and other sundries. Its daily patrons have helped insulate the store from broader retail trends, manager Eric Ismond said.

“We have a lot of loyal customers, so we do try to take care of them,” he said.

Across the Metra tracks from Ismond’s newsstand, Hamann said she hopes sales at her wine store will pick up. Aside from recent consumer malaise, though, many Evanston businesses have struggled with the city’s “punitive” regulations and taxes, she said.

“There’s all sorts of shenanigans going on right now that might be thought of as progressive, worker-oriented good intention, but in actuality are punitive toward the businesses that are barely holding on,” Hamann said.

She cited the city’s 6% liquor tax as an example of how Evanston differs from other nearby cities. The city’s economic development office did not respond to a request for comment.

“You talk to the city about it, and they’re like, ‘We’re in debt,’” Hamann added. “But can we figure out why that debt is placed on the backs of small businesses?”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @realShunGraves

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