Woodring’s Floral Gardens employees were on all fours in early November, transforming the shop from an autumn-themed palette into Christmas greens and reds.
It was a not-so-subtle reminder, as two employees hammered away to build a new display, that big box stores aren’t alone in gearing up for the holiday shopping season.
The small shops have tirelessly stockpiled for late year silver and gold rush of shoppers; they hope that Mom, Dad and Santa don’t drop all of their dimes on Black Friday. The sixth annual nationwide Small Business Saturday is, after all, just a day later.
“Business does pick up, because of the holidays, because the students have returned a few months ago and that means a lot to a downtown business,” Woodrings designer Lisa Haas said. “We’re planning, too, to do the Christmas decorating around downtown as well. We also do the hospital, and we’ll help out Toftrees for their decorations and some private homes.”
Woodrings, which also has a shop and greenhouse in Bellefonte, said it focuses on originality and customer service to try to beat the bigger competition.
“You’ll definitely find more unique items here, things that are custom designed for your home,” Haas said. “You can bring things in like your pillows, pictures and all sorts of things, so we can incorporate those things and that feel into their arrangements. You can’t really get that at the box stores.”
Terri Conklin, owner of Conklin’s Corner Antique and Gift Barn in Philipsburg, prepares for the holiday season, too, though probably earlier than anyone else.
“We have a huge Christmas room on the second floor, and we start setting up in summer months for Labor Day, and it just gets continually busier,” Conklin said. “We have a lot of people that come just for the Christmas room.”
The daily chores for the setup makes for earlier mornings and later nights than usual.
“To be honest, we probably have it a little bit down to a science,” Conklin said. “The challenge is always making sure we have the full inventory with lots of shoppers on the way. We want to make sure they have a nice experience on (Small Business Saturday) and every other day they come in. We have a lot of deadlines to meet to do that, so we put in a lot of late nights.”
Conklin hopes that Small Business Saturday’s popularity — about $14.3 billion is spent at small businesses that day, according to American Express, which launched the movement in 2010 — spills over into the other 364 days of the year.
“That would be very nice,” she said. “A lot of people don’t realize how important it is to shop locally, how much it helps the economy. These kinds of sales hopefully make us more successful.”
Centre Hall Pet Supply owner Allison Brown gauges customer interest for the things they want to buy during the holidays.
“We try to make sure we have enough of what people will really want,” Brown said. “I try to use the advice of my staff and regulars who come and ask them what they think they’ll want and don’t want to figure out trends. This time of year shoppers buy more treats and more fun things whereas regularly it’s more about food and their pets’ medical needs.”
She said business also gets better, because of Small Business Saturday.
“We haven’t promoted it a lot on our own, but I think word of mouth takes care of it,” Brown said. “I think it raises awareness, and hopefully more people make it a point to shop year-round. I think people in smaller towns are more likely to do that than to go to Petco. Hopefully, Small Business Saturday stays with them.”
Pure Imagination Toys of Bellefonte begin to order for the holidays in August, because it takes three to four months to fill stick and continue to order and receive shipments right up to Christmas Eve.
The store also adds part-time employees to help with higher volumes of customers, which is particularly noticeable on Small Business Saturday.
“In previous years, we have seen customers make a real effort to shop small businesses on that day,” Pure Imagination Toys co-owners Rhett Walsh and Marc Tressler said. “The promotion is very positive and reminds people that small businesses have a great deal to offer.”
The Bellefonte Intervalley Chamber of Commerce will also be in on the act for Small Business Saturday by promoting it with the help of the Bellefonte Keystone Community.
The BIACC hopes local businesses actively promote and plan to stay open late for the day.
“I think it’s like anything else that promotes small business, another terrific opportunity to get additional business and meet new customers,” BIACC Executive Director Gary Hoover said. “We’ll make a great effort to get it done.”