Merchants on 161st Street in the Bronx are expecting this year's holiday shopping season to be dismal, after seeing sales sag ever since the new Yankee Stadium opened more than a year and a half ago.
Local store owners won't even have the uptick in sales that accompanies a Yankees World Series win, as fans return to the neighborhood to buy souvenirs for holiday gifts. Mike Hong runs D&J Variety Store and says last Christmas gave them a good boost.
"We sold a lot of World Series Championship T-shirts, key chains, pins, pennants," says Hong. "But this year, we lost, and I don't see any coming back, you know?"
The 2009 World Series victory helped keep the merchants afloat, who say business dramatically slumped right after the new Yankee Stadium opened in April of that year. WNYC reported last fall that the new stadium came with dozens of competing businesses and a new MetroNorth stop that diverted foot traffic away from 161st Street. Hong says his business is down 30 percent since the new stadium opened.
But some local business advocates say merchants haven't figured out how to capitalize on the new situation, like the special events Yankee Stadium hosts off-season. Cary Goodman heads the 161st Street Business Improvement District and says merchants should stock their stores with products targeting those events.
"The Yankee Stadium venue is a world-class venue, and it's going to attract world-class events — concerts, football, hockey and the like," says Goodman. "And each of these has a different constituency. And they're also consumers for different products."
Yet since it opened, the stadium has hosted only one boxing match, one football game and two rock concerts. Merchants like Abdul Traore says it's too expensive to stock their stores with new products just for a one-day event.
Traore manages Jeans Plus, a discount Yankee souvenir store. He says business went down almost 60 percent when the new stadium opened, and it's even worse this year.
"We're scared because if the business is going down, owner is not happy. I'm the manager, I'm not happy. The employees are not happy because you got to cut people's hours," says Traore.
Some employees at Jeans Plus have seen their hours slashed. Traore says the store tried to boost holiday business this year by starting Black Friday sales before Thanksgiving and stocking up with more non-Yankee clothing. But he says he's not optimistic the store will recover much by year's end.