Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 1
Happy New Year!
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

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Holiday Business Stronger Than Expected

Dilshanie Perera

Despite the recession, a snowstorm, and other setbacks during December, merchants reported seeing increased spending during the holiday season, a welcome change from what was otherwise a difficult year.

There are reasons to be hopeful, with President of the Princeton Merchants Association Travis Linderman reporting that this holiday season was far stronger than the previous year’s, and Vice President of Palmer Square Management David Newton noting 100 percent occupancy in the square.

“It was a challenging year last year, and this year will also be challenging,” Mr. Newton cautioned, noting that a present goal is “defining where we are given the fallout from the recession,” with the overarching aim of “keeping the square interesting.”

A combination of established and start-up, independent and national stores line Palmer Square, with new shops that opened in 2009 including Salon Pure, TerraCycle, Luxaby Baby, Rosana, and Lacrosse Unlimited.

The larger spaces in the square tend to attract established independents or bigger chains, Mr. Newton said.

“Even though you get a lot of visitors coming to the University, Princeton has to be for Princetonians. Seventy to 80 percent of our customers come from 10 miles around Princeton, and we have to make something that reflects the community and reflects the town,” Mr. Newton said of the combination of stores in Palmer Square. “We have unique stores and certain chains … something you can’t find everywhere else.”

Saying that they do not like vacancies, Mr. Newton noted that Palmer Square is going through a transitional phase. “For anything to be vibrant, it must remain in transition.”

The influx of new and vibrant ideas is also a theme with the Princeton Merchants Association (PMA), which has seen its membership and scope grow rapidly since relaunching with new leadership and a new name in September. The organization was formerly the Borough Merchants for Princeton.

Mr. Linderman reported that the Board of the PMA was particularly pleased to join with the merchants at the Princeton Shopping Center, which allowed for unique partnerships and projects during the holiday season. He cited the extension of the University’s Tiger Transit Saturday Shuttle route linking the downtown and the Shopping Center, and the expanded hours and route of the Free B jitney shuttle as stemming from a collaboration between merchants all over the town, as well as the Borough and University.

The PMA is planning major events each quarter to spur business and engage the community, beginning with Princeton Pi Day on March 14. “There is such a rich history, and so many unique mathematicians, scientists, and artists in town … we can use that day to spotlight them,” Mr. Linderman said.

Since the day falls on a Sunday, Mr. Linderman said the PMA plans to work with local churches to encourage congregations to visit and dine in town after the services, an event that would “show the economic power of our own community.”

Mr. Linderman is also researching and analyzing towns with profiles similar to Princeton’s in order to gain insight into what other locations are doing vis a vis their business partnerships. “We have to find ways to reduce stress on local taxpayers,” he added, noting that the PMA is already in talks with grant writers living in Princeton who may be able to assist in securing federal, state, and historic preservation funding.

Other strategies that will continue in the new year include meeting and supporting new business owners, engaging them in dialogue, and obtaining feedback to strengthen the local economy. “It’s our responsibility as the established merchant community to show you the ropes and walk you through the process,” Mr. Linderman said.

“We will support each other, and that leads to prosperity on all sides,” he added.

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