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November 22. 2012 8:16PM

Concord retailers promoting Saturday shop-walking


Chrystine Lilley, decorates the window scene for Christmas at the Viking House on Main Street in Concord as businesses prepare for the holiday rush. Many are hoping people will shop locally for Small Business Saturday and beyond as several area groups promote a new initiative called "I Prefer to Walk" aimed at getting people to shop downtown. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

CONCORD - If traffic jams on Loudon Road and South Willow Street aren't your idea of stressfree Christmas shopping, an effort is under way in one downtown to get people to park their car and walk to their favorite shops.

Retailers in the Capital City are pushing Small Business Saturday, an apÚritif to a Black Friday binge of shopping malls and big box stores.

"We have a beautiful downtown with lots of interesting shops, sights, sounds and smells to enjoy," said Margaret Fletcher of the Wellness Coalition, which has teamed with Friends of Downtown Concord to promote an "I Prefer to Walk!" program. Their advice: walk among the various stores rather than drive from one shopping plaza to another.

"Moving your whole body for an extra few blocks is wonderful for your physical health and overall well-being," she said.

In downtown Manchester, such efforts have taken part in the past, but not this year.

"Our downtown is primarily an entertainment zone and not a shopping zone," said Greg Barrett, a real estate agent who specializes in downtown property.

Restaurants and coffee shops predominate on Elm Street and its side streets, with a few specialty retailers thrown in, he said.

In Concord, the walking program also promotes the ability of shoppers to interact with others while perambulating among shops.

Sponsors suggest that motorists park away from Main Street.

The car can be left on side streets and three downtown Concord parking garages, all which are free on weekends.

Eric Kilbane, who owns Castro's Backroom cigar stores in Concord, Manchester and Nashua, said his stores depend on downtown foot traffic.

Restaurants in downtown Manchester bring him busines because diners enjoy a cigar after a good meal.

During the Christmas season, shoppers start hitting his stores in mid-December, looking for gifts such as cigars, humidors, cutters and lighters.

And he said customers will make a special trip downtown.

"There's not a whole lot of options for cigar shops," he said. "We have a niche market. It works for us."

The Commute Green New Hampshire group is best known for its "1 in 5" campaign, which encourages people to pledge to not use an automobile for one day of every five for the remainder of the year.

One store, Bona Fide Green Goods, will be offering stickers to people who want to show their dedication to walking during Small Business Saturday.

Advance weather forecasts for Saturday call for temperatures in the mid 40s with variable clouds.


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