Local Businesses Encouraged by Improving Numbers, Sales
Many businesses said they still feel the recession's effects, but they are seeing encouraging signs.
While economists declared the recession over in June 2009, people in Glencoe, Winnetka, and Northfield aren't so sure, but they are seeing signs of improvement.
The National Bureau of Economic Research, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research authority on U.S. recessionary data, declared that the recession lasted from December 2007 to June 2009, making those 18 months the longest economic downturn since the Great Depression. NBER, based in Cambridge, Mass., acknowledged that the economy has not returned to normal, but it maintained that the recession is over and recovery started well over a year ago.
"I think the recession is still present but sales are up," said Jay Liberman, president and executive chef of Foodstuffs. The company is also still taking measures to get customers in the door.
"We started a program called Foodstuffs Feature, so on certain days of the week it's buy-one-get-one-free or take two dollars off a pound of something. Our quality hasn't changed but we give people more value for their money now."
Not all businesses were affected by the recession in the same way, but many reported making adjustments to help their wares appeal to a broader customer base.
"[The recession] really didn't hurt us the way it hurt many other stores," said Yola Parys, of Frances Heffernan. "We are still a high-end store but now we buy more price-friendly items to attract more customers."
Along with retail sales, home sales in the area have become more competitive in the past year. According to Shirley A. Olin, managing broker at Coldwell Banker in Glencoe, sellers' energized pricing leads to quicker sales.
"Over this past year, motivated sellers have become realistic about their pricing in order to attract the buyers," Olin said. "The value is always in the eye of the buyer."
Sellers are starting to see multiple offers for their homes again, which indicates that prospective buyers are accepting the current marketplace, she said
Business owners in Winnetka have seen an increase in sales due in part to the decision to allow overnight street work in the downtown business district. The Winnetka Village Council approved the change in order to help businesses, said Terry Dason, executive director of the Winnetka Chamber of Commerce.
"When Steve Saunders [public works director] called me and asked me what I thought about possibly having construction being done at night and I jumped for joy and said the businesses would be absolutely thrilled," Dason said. "The village is very supportive of our businesses and they are sensitive to their needs."
Mark Kemerer, store manager at Kaehler World Traveler, calls the move "a smart thing to do."
"Now the parking spaces are all full in front of my store so customers can get in the store to buy product," he said.
Roberta Rubin, owner of the Book Stall at Chestnut Court agreed, saying the switch to nighttime construction "is really a gift to all of us."
The Happ Inn in Northfield opened a year ago, just after NBER declared the recession over. While they do not have numbers from stronger economic years to compare, manager Travis Binns said he has noticed improvement nonetheless.
"We opened during the economic crisis but our sales are just as high, if not higher,
now," Binns said.
Ten months after June 2009, businesses may not be seeing a full economic recovery, but there is hope, Dason said.
"What I'm hearing from businesses is that they're seeing little bits of improvement. And at least it's not going in reverse."
Sara Fay contributed reporting.