As the economy struggles to gain traction for a third straight year, local businesses and retailers remain optimistic that they have seen the worst of a dire economic state.
“Most of us believe that maybe better days are ahead,” said Ron Sousa, a director of the . “I think we’ll have a stronger recovery after a prolonged slump. There is definitely pent-up demand and money sitting on the sidelines.”
Soussa is the owner of an executive suites business, which sets up professional offices for business owners.
“We are seeing more and more traffic coming in, people going into a professional office environment,” Soussa said. “To me that is somewhat of a bell weather.”
Others, however, such as Karen Meyer, executive director of the Madison-Chatham Chamber of Commerce, who is also the owner of the clothing shop in Madison, haven’t yet seen conclusive signs that the economy is on its way back.
“I think that most are still thinking that it’s going to be difficult,” Meyer said. “I don’t know if the news is going to change their minds at all about that. I personally have seen an upswing in my business, but some of our retailers are still struggling.”
Recent news, however has been rather positive. Earlier this week,the Labor Department reported that the number of Americans filing for their first week of unemployment benefits dipped for the third straight week.
Those numbers apparently also translate well on a regional level. Within the and chambers' retail base, Meyer said seasonal hiring is strong.
“I know in the past a lot of hours were obviously done by the owners,” Meyer said. “I think our retailers are all bringing on more help.”
Cheryl Smith, an interior designer who is also the president of the Chatham Chamber of Commerce, said it's just a matter of time before the floodgates of more buying open.
“People are tired of not spending their money,” Smith said. “They are tired of this whole economic issue and everything that’s going on. They just want to feel good again. I’m seeing an increase of business and expect that the stores on Main Street will, as well.”
In both Madison and in Chatham, “Main Street” is aided by the respective strength of their chambers, which produce a variety of programs designed to increase foot traffic among their retail base.
In Madison, for example, the chamber has an active program schedule, the goal of which is to bring more foot traffic into the downtown. For example, the chamber has a Christmas Walk planned for the end of November and a Ladies Night Out.
“We are doing whatever we can to drive business into town,” Meyer said.
That sure beats relying on some of the more traditional methods to generate traffic, such as special promotions and other seasonal specials.
“I did not stop my advertising I have not stopped my marketing,” Smith said. “It’s all these marketing activities put together, it’s not any one thing that’s going to make things happen.”