Retailers Surviving in Detroit

Three teen-oriented independents are getting a little help from the locals.

with contributions from Lindsay E. Sammon
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Without the once-robust auto industry to keep it going, Detroit’s economy has been sliding. Unemployment has skyrocketed, home foreclosures have hit a record high and many national chains are backing out of the depressed city. Still, independent retailers in the area are finding increased support from locals. Here, three teen-oriented independents talk about ways to boost traffic and how “shop local” initiatives are helping to keep their businesses afloat.


Store manager: Angie Yaldoo
Address: 323 S. Main St., Royal Oak, Mich.
Square footage: 3,500
Footwear brands: 80%20, Converse, Dr. Martens, Jeffrey Campbell, Minnetonka and NYLA, among others

In business since 1982, apparel and accessories boutique Incognito, which began carrying footwear in 1992, has witnessed many ups and downs in the Detroit area. But the past year-and-a-half was the worst that store manager

Angie Yaldoo has ever seen, she said. However, some people are still shopping to lift their spirits. “People understand that we’re going through tough times right now, but they don’t want to stop doing the things they used to do. And they still want to be part of the community,” said Yaldoo.

As major retailers — from Barnes & Noble to Starbucks — continue to shutter locations nearby, Yaldoo said consumers are migrating to neighborhoods populated with independent shops. “Right now, with the way things are going, people want to support their local businesses,” she said.

Still, fall sales have been soft. “It’s been a little quiet, which is expected with everything going on,” she said. “We’re just staying positive and doing what we can. Usually a couple of weeks before Christmas is when [customer traffic] really picks up.”

Though Incognito isn’t investing in any major marketing initiatives right now, Yaldoo does plan to place holiday sale ads in local publications and tout holiday product on the store’s Myspace blog and Facebook page.

In addition, the store launched e-commerce this fall and is hoping that sales pick up as the holidays near.

“It’s really important to keep up with competitors,” said Yaldoo. “We’re hoping that [the Website] is going to increase sales. We get a lot of people who come in the store from out of town. ... So now our customers can shop with us no matter where they are, and hopefully, we’ll get new customers and get our name out there.”

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