NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Local retailers are hoping to see New York City's tourism industry bounce back this summer and more commuters flocking to Big Apple office buildings. One Brooklyn owner was able to better position himself for increased foot traffic.
Douglas Grater, owner of Something Else, an apparel and home goods store with locations in Cobble Hill and Park Slope, told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank, that the Cobble Hill store has taken the biggest hit because it relies on tourist foot traffic from Manhattan.
"I mean you have millions of tourists that maybe 10 years ago would walk across the Brooklyn bridge, take a picture, and then reverse themselves and walk right back. And now, with Brooklyn being so hot over the last 10 years, it's really cool to continue on into Brooklyn and the flow takes them right into our shop, which is on Smith Street," he said.
Something Else in Park Slope is in a residential neighborhood. Grater actually moved one block where he said he gets "70 percent more eye balls" on the store.
"That move was a magical move for us because it just put us on the corner of two major streets," said Grater whose store is now on the corner of Union Street and 5th Avenue.
The 30-year retail veteran was able to negotiate with a small landlord at the new location who was willing to give him a reduced rent plus a break while non-essential businesses were shut down last spring.
"So we probably got three and a half months where we were able to move, build a new shop, get ready, and then, the second we were opened up, then that landlord started our lease," Grater explained. "By getting out of the lease, I stopped the rent at the older store and by moving to the new store, I didn't pay any rent."
He says he "got lucky" because he was a good tenant. On the Small Business Spotlight, Grater advised other owners to be respectful to their landlords.
Another key to Grater's success was liquidating old inventory and being patient, knowing the pandemic will not end overnight.
"Understand that it's not a day-to-day or a week-to-week or a month-to-month situation; this is a 5 to 10 year plan all of a sudden," he said.
Apparel sales at Something Else were down 30 percent before the pandemic and remained low in the last year, but now, clothing sales are increasing as New York State lifts COVID-19 restrictions.
"I'm seeing men and women starting to buy more fashionable products than just sweats and stuff," Grater said. They're looking to go out even in New York.
They're dining, they're eating outside, they're preparing to look good. I think there's a lot of people out there that say, 'I need to meet a significant other and look good.' And, I see it ticking up."
The third generation apparel business owner told Connolly and Carousso dress sales are rising along with fashionable tops for men and women. That was not the case a year ago. Candles have been the top selling home goods item at Something Else.
See advice for recovering in retail on the Small Business Spotlight video above.