UPPER EAST SIDE — Maja Efendic has only been in her job for one month at Madura, a Madison Avenue outpost of a French chain that sells curtains, pillows and lighting. She's already made herself at home.
Efendic, Madura's director of U.S. stores, spearheaded an effort to get her neighbors on board to turn holiday shopping into a fun event with wine and cheese and lots of discounts. With the help of the Madison Avenue Business Improvement District, she enlisted several stores on Madison Avenue, between East 84th 86th streets, to remain open late for three Thursday nights — Dec. 8, 15 and 22 — and throw parties while hosting sales promotions.
Her shop, at 1162 Madison Ave., for instance, which is offering 20 percent off pillows and $20 off purchases of $100 or more, will be throwing a wine reception on Dec. 15.
"We wanted to make shopping exciting and have parties and to say to people they should stay and shop in the neighborhood," said Efendic.
She was looking for creative ways to boost sale in a sluggish economy with virtually no advertising budget. Sales this year are down 10 percent from last year at the store that opened in New York in 2006.
"People are more hesitant to make spontaneous purchases," she said, noting how it's more common to see shoppers come in a few times and make appointments with the store's curtain specialists. She's hoping that new people will come in for wine and then notice the tablecloths or penholders at the store.
Other participating stores include Theory (1157 Madison Ave.) and Lululemon Athletica (1146 Madison Ave.), which will stay open until 7 p.m.; Coach (35 E. 85th St.) and Dean & Deluca (1150 Madison Ave.) are among the stores that will remain open until 8 p.m.
Madura's nextdoor neighbor, Venture Stationers, was an early fan of the initiative. The shop, which started 40 years ago as a magazine and cigar store has expanded to sell handbags costing more than a $1,000.
"We like to get some new blood into the store and new interest," said Effy Barmoshe, Venture's manager. "Since we're a neighborhood store, we're always looking to bring in new ideas."
When the shop started selling Longchamp bags 15 years ago, it was one of the first to sell the luxury French brand in the U.S. It also sells other high-end bags like Isabelle Fiore and Carlos Falchi, whose $220 zebra patterned bags are 30 percent off for the holiday promotion. Venture just launched a new section of brightly-colored DeLonghi espresso machines, which range from $127 to $420, that are also 30 percent off.
The continual changes at Venture have helped business. This year has been the best for the shop since the downturn. "It keeps everyone intrigued," Barmoshe said of the new products. "We evolve with the needs of the customer. If something doesn't work we change it."
Barmoshe said he looked forward to serving wine and cheese for all three nights hours on a block where everyone normally closes before 7 p.m.
"The whole idea is that we're all retailers, but we're not in competition with each other because we cater to different clients," Efendic said. "We wanted to do this as a neighborhood, for the neighborhood."