Mom-and-pop shops have to compete with big-box retailers no matter how small their business.
But they’re fighting back again this holiday season, beginning with the fifth annual Small Business Saturday, a national annual event launched by American Express in 2010 on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
Small Business Saturday encourages holiday shoppers to spend less at big-box retailers on Black Friday and more at the local shops on Saturday.
Downtown State College Improvement District Executive Director George Arnold said DID has worked with the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County to promote Small Business Saturday. He said each year the CBICC provides DID with 30 welcome mats that go out to small State College businesses on a first-come, first-served basis.
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“It’s the local business where you get to talk with someone face to face who cares,” Arnold said. “They provide knowledgeable people who can inform you about the products that you are interested in.”
Some small-business owners say Small Business Saturday has gained popularity each year.
“It has grown considerably in the last five years,” Gift Adventures owner Steve Artz said. “We’ve had people come in just to make a purchase on that day even if it’s just a small item. I’ve had a number of people tell me that the last few years.”
Artz said supporting one small business helps support other mom-and-pop shops.
“We try and provide a lot in terms of personal attention, but we also provide as much back to the community as we can,” he said. “I think, and I think other small business owners think, that it’s important to shop small. By purchasing in businesses that are local the revenue stays local.”
The Animal Kingdom co-owner Lindsay Williamson also said shopping small is getting bigger.
“The idea of shopping small has become trendy because people are supporting other people in their community,” Williamson said. “A ginormous priority of ours is to shop small in State College and elsewhere wherever we go. We’re always looking to shop small, because we love to meet and support other small-business owners.”
The stats back that up.
Awareness of Small Business Saturday increased 4 percent last year, coinciding with a 3.6 percent increase in consumer spending at small businesses, according to a 2013 survey of 1,000 adults released by American Express and the National Federation of Businesses.
Not every community has experienced increased popularity in shopping small, though.
Jake’s Cards and Games co-owner Bryce Taylor said last year’s holiday season was a down year for his Bellefonte store.
“I think on that Black Friday weekend we see most of our business on Saturday from people trying to shop small, so it’s been sort of a trend,” Taylor said. “But we’re kind of bracing ourselves in this area, because more people stayed (home) because of the bad weather and economy last year. We’re hoping more people come out this year.”
He said his store will promote sales for Small Business Saturday in hopes of a rebound.
Williamson, whose store sells children’s clothing and toys, hired two part-time workers this fall to prepare for the holiday shopping rush in State College.
Chris McKee, the manager of Moyer Jewelers in State College, said he won’t hire more employees for the holidays, but not for a shortage of shoppers.
“The shortest term for any of our employees is three years, and we still refer to her as the new girl,” McKee said. “I think it helps at our store and at other small stores that you recognize the folks that come in. We know the celebrations they have and their tastes. That’s service you probably don’t get at big-box stores with big turnover.”
McKee said he loves seeing customers return to the store his wife, Lori Moyer, owns.
“It’s the supreme compliment,” McKee said. “The lasting relationships we’ve had have been the key to or success in the past and present. It’s definitely the best compliment when a customer comes back again.”
Dana Shoemaker, Philipsburg Main Street Manager, said she encourages Philipsburg businesses to promote Small Business Saturday, but that she also has a larger goal.
“We love Small Business Saturday, and it’s a great promotion to get people thinking about where they’re shopping that weekend,” Shoemaker said. “My goal is to have people shop small all year round rather than just this one day. It gets people thinking, but again our overall goal is really to have small business day every day.”
Ricotta’s Jewelry co-owner Joan Ricotta said she’s looking forward to shopping small as much as she hopes to see customers in her Philipsburg store.
“We patronize all small businesses that we can, even when we go out of town,” Ricotta said. “I know how much of a difference that can make in a small retailer’s day. Hopefully, Small Business Saturday makes a big difference in all of our days.”