Blueprint clothing store (15 years at the location) Ronald Elike, owner 1038 Southern PHOTOGRAPHER: Mohammad Sharif Hassan Ronald Elike is the owner of the Blueprint, a clothing store, on Southern Blvd. He launched the business in 2002 when few online businesses were selling cloths. His business grew for about a decade, but started trending down about five years ago. “The chain stores have an effect on us, but online is even worse – that’s taken a big chunk of our business away – because a lot of customers are now shopping online,” 41-year-old business owner said. Elike tried to embrace the online business in the hope to compensate the store decline. He created a website and started selling on Ebay. The website didn’t help. The Ebay sales, however, increased over time. Elike said his business is “tremendously down,” this holiday season. In addition to online and chain store growth, he has another problem – unfriendly weather. With the weather warmer this December, fewer people buy winter clothes. “This year in particular we had a lot of issues with weather. It’s been warm. Normally it supposed to be cold [in December]. So, we are selling winter cloths, but people don’t need it right now,” he said.

Small businesses brace for rough holiday season

Though business owners often depend on the holiday season to boost flagging revenues, many in Longwood’s main shopping district along Southern Boulevard say they’re not optimistic as big box stores and online sales have eaten away at their ability to earn a living in recent years.

Historically, holiday sales have made up for shortfalls in year-round revenue for small businesses in the South Bronx as elsewhere.

But some business owners in Longwood’s main shopping district along Southern Boulevard say they’re not optimistic amid steady declines in sales revenue they have seen during Christmas season in recent years.

Online shopping and the incursion of big box stores, notably including the announcement of a new Burlington Coat Factory outlet that will soon open in Mott Haven, has many in the area worried that the upcoming holiday season won’t help sagging sales.
Though many customers say they prefer shopping at local small businesses to big box stores, many are shopping online or at one-stop behemoths like the Gateway Mall, hoping to save a few bucks.

Some small business owners say that mall customers will overpay for name brands, even though small businesses provide more personal service. In order to cope, some are using social media to attract customers, while others plan to start selling their products online.

Others are extending the hours of their brick and mortar operations to increase their chances of pulling in customers. For some small businesses, the trend has led to the painful consequence of laying off employees in recent years.

The Express visited several mom and pop stores on Southern Boulevard in Longwood to take the pulse of area businesses as the holiday season kicks in, and see how they plan to weather the storm of competition from the internet and big boxes. The Express spoke with a dozen local businesses about their prospects this December and beyond. See what they have to say in the slideshow below.

Mom & Pop

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