San Diego’s small businesses enter the holiday shopping season with optimism… and a little trepidation

It’s been a tough few years for small businesses.

After contending with COVID-19 restrictions in 2020 and most of 2021, inflation, a struggling economy and fears of a looming recession could discourage customers from splurging this holiday shopping season.

San Diego-area store owners kicked off Small Business Saturday — an annual initiative that encourages consumers to spend their holiday dollars at mom-and-pop stores — with a mix of optimism and a dash of economic reality.

“It’s like you don’t know week after week how you’re going to survive,” says Doug Yeagley, owner of two Mission Hills businesses – hair and nail studio Top Salon and an adjoining outdoor cinema called Cinema Under The Stars that shows classics and movies. newly released.

“People tell me they have to get their hair done, but they don’t always have to come to the movies. They can watch on the internet (or streaming services). It’s tough and all you can do is try to make your place as light and healthy as possible and be positive.

In his 20 years as owner of Maxwell’s House of Books in downtown La Mesa, Craig Maxwell says he can’t remember a slower start to the holiday season.

“Usually we start buying before Thanksgiving and we see a marked increase in walk-in and online business and it has slowed down, or at least has been very static,” said Maxwell, who estimates his store sales are down 10 percent compared to their last. year.

A national survey commissioned by Intuit QuickBooks of more than 5,500 adults reported that 66 percent of consumers said they would buy fewer gifts during the 2022 holiday season than last year.

Given the high gas and food prices, the percentage doesn’t surprise Pierre Farhat, owner of Pierre’s Jewelry in downtown La Mesa.

Beatrix and Pierre Farhat, like many sole proprietors, have suffered from the pandemic and now inflation is rising, as they prepare for the holiday season. The Farhats own Pierre Jewelers on La Mesa Blvd.

(Nancee E. Lewis/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“It’s not easy because we sell luxury goods,” he said. “But I think people are going out and everyone wants to buy. They don’t have to buy big gifts in bulk, but they will buy small things.”

His shop was one of the La Mesa shops that were ransacked after massive protests against police violence and racial injustice turned into riots on May 30, 2020. Farhat said his shop was closed for more than four months.

“I’ve been doing this for 39 years,” he said. “I’ve been through a lot of hard times.”

Jesse Zmuda, owner of Backbone Floral in Mission Hills, says he’s adjusting prices and sending out more emails and coupons to entice customers. Her boutique sells fresh flowers, dried flowers, vintage clothing, cards and art all handmade in the US.

“Small and local shopping is very important,” says Zmuda, “People don’t realize how excited I am when they buy something. This is a big problem for us.

In another corner, Hailey Powell, co-owner of La Puerta’s Mexican canteen, says winter sales are about 20 percent slower than summer, but she hopes the expanded space for private holiday parties will help fill the financial gap.

“We are very optimistic,” going into the holiday season, he said. “I’m not sure how other people do it but we just focus on what we’re doing and not worry about what other people are doing.”

The shopping season is kicking off with some promising news — Adobe Analytics reports that US shoppers are spending almost 3 percent more online this Thanksgiving than last year. The study of consumer transactions reported sales of $5.29 billion.

In his La Mesa bookstore with Rorschach’s black cat asleep on the counter, Maxwell says a busy holiday shopping season won’t make or break his business. “But of course that is the peak at the end of the year. And if that’s taken,” he said with a wry laugh, “we’re just left with the dough.”