Locally owned KC businesses jolly about holiday sales

KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) – Nationwide, Black Friday shopping sales numbers for 2021 failed to improve to pre-pandemic levels. In Kansas City, we found the opposite when surveying some small, local businesses in Brookside.

All three business owners said 2021 was better than both 2020 and 2019.

Lori Block has owned Corner Candleshop for 18 years now. She said the sales figures for Small Business Saturday 2021 were the highest of any other year.

“People are wanting to shop local,” she said.

She noted that the local gift shops embrace a nostalgic notion of personal touches. She forages for vintage glassware and turns them into scented candles in the back of the store.

Like others, she thinks the experience of living through the pandemic may be part of the reason for the recent boost.

“They’ve witnessed so many stores closing,” she said.

At Brookside Toy and Science, which has been in Brookside since the 1960s, no one is rushing in to get the latest video game and console. Owner Holly Pollard showed us several of her favorite offerings, including educational STEM toys like a build-it-yourself robotic hedgehog and small batch offerings like

KC-themed jigsaw puzzles produced by a local company using photos, paintings and illustrations from local artists.

Pollard hasn’t crunched the Small Business Saturday numbers yet but said October figures for 2021 were better than both 2020 and 2019. For that matter, holiday season 2020 sales were better than holiday season 2019.

“It looks like it’s up significantly to other years,” Pollard said.

She speculated that the stay-at-home mindset of early 2020 has played a role.

“There was a lot of stuck at home and really thinking about what does your neighborhood look like and what can you do about it?” Pollard said.

At A Store Called Stuff just a few doors down, some of the top sellers are COVID-themed. They have glass ornaments featuring vintage-style Santas, one wearing a mask, another rolling up his sleeve to show a glittery, gold Band-Aid. Co-owner Sloane Simmons calls them masked Santa and vaccinated Santa. She and her co-owner sister said they’ve seen a similar trend with 2021 holiday sales exceeding not just 2020’s but also 2019’s.

They said customers have told them the pandemic has changed their values system in some ways.

“I think the pandemic, 2020, really let people revalue what they want in their lives, how they want to shop, who they want to support, and more importantly, who they want to have in business when this pandemic ends,” Simmons said.

Pryde’s kitchen and necessities in Westport was bustling when KCTV5 visited on Small Business Saturday. Owner Louise Myers estimated 20 percent more traffic compared to the same weekend last year. She didn’t have a comparison to pre-pandemic.

“I think people were excited to be out shopping normally and were very intentional about mentioning their support for Pryde’s,” Myers said.

Block said the support is something they don’t take for granted.

“With each purchase and each sale [on Saturday], we just had an intimate little thank you with them,” Block said, “because we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for our local customers and our loyal customers that shop here over and over.”

Simmons was likewise grateful for the support but had a reminder that holiday shopping alone is not enough to keep a small business alive. She said comparing one shopping weekend year-over-year may show success, but they took a big hit during the early months of 2020 and still have some catching up to do.