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Small Business Saturday bolsters local shops
Campaign highlights 'mom and pop' enterprises
small biz pic1
Downtown shops are open and ready for the third annual Small Business Saturday a national shopping holiday dedicated to encouraging communities to shop local. - photo by CARA HALLAM / The Journal

As crowds rushed to big-box stores for door buster deals following their Thanksgiving meal for Black Friday, many local shop owners were preparing for their own shopping holiday – Small Business Saturday.

The holiday, first observed in 2010, brings focus back to local businesses with hopes to lead consumers to the roots of their towns by helping mom and pop stores across the nation. Primarily promoted by mega-financial service American Express, television advertisements and radio spots have taken to the masses with the message to shop local.

Over the years, hundreds of organizations have joined the campaign efforts to promote Small Business Saturday. Even California Governor Jerry Brown has applauded the holiday, noting the importance of the hundreds of thousands entrepreneurs who start up local shops across the State.

“Small businesses embody the entrepreneurial spirit that has driven the economy of our Golden State,” said Governor Brown. “Over half of our private sector workforce is employed by small business. On Saturday, November 30th, I urge all Californians to support small businesses and merchants on Small Business Saturday and throughout the year.”

Many local business owners are appreciative of the campaign efforts put forth by American Express and similar companies, as the funds needed to promote the holiday on that scale are far out of their own reach.

“I saw that they have been putting the ads on TV, and I think it’s great,” said Kim Jonson, of Vintage Market in downtown Turlock, who will be offering refreshments and deals on Saturday. “You just register your business online and [American Express] provides you with some great free ad specials, and they’re able to do advertising that we couldn’t afford. They’re really pushing it, and it helps everyone.”

Currently, California has 3.4 million small businesses which account for 99 percent of the State’s employers. Carlos Mendoza, the U.S. Small Business Administration Fresno District director, says that the holiday is dedicated to showing support for local shops that are the foundation of local economies.

“Half of America’s workers either own or work for a small business,” said Mendoza. “Small Business Saturday is an opportunity to show our support for our friends and neighbors who throughout the year are growing our local economy, as well as supporting many local initiatives and organizations.”

Although thousands of holiday shoppers look forward to Black Friday – the shopper’s Armageddon following Thanksgiving – others believe shopping locally provides an experience that is unachievable in larger, corporate stores or even through online shopping.

“Over the years, websites like Ebay have really hurt the antique business,” said Barbara Milgrom, of Main Street Antiques. “But I think that people are starting to shop locally more. They want to feel and touch the items, and get the experience of coming into the store. I’ve learned a lot from customers, and since most of our customers are repeat customers, we can develop an one-on-one relationship with them. If we don’t have something that one of our customers is looking for, we’ll keep an eye out for them and try to find it to bring into the store. At the big-box stores, it’s hard to find someone to help you, let alone a cashier.”

Although this is the first year Main Street Antiques is participating in Small Business Saturday through American Express, Milgrom says that she believes it helps the community support the downtown while keeping money local.

Other retailers have participated in the holiday since the beginning. Glitz Fine Clothing owner Lisa Espinola says she has been joining in for the past three years and continues to believe local shops do benefit from Small Business Saturday. During the holiday, Espinola says her store will be offering a “pick-a-discount” deal for customers to receive an additional 20 to 40 percent off certain items.

“This is our third time participating, and I think the campaigns help a lot because we can’t do that,” said Espinola. “It brings money into ‘mom and pop’ stores, and helps keep the downtown alive. I definitely think these kinds of efforts help us stay in business by encouraging people to shop local. And there are benefits to shopping locally. We’ve built a lot more relationships, and you get to know what your customers like, so we’ll call them when we receive items that are their own style – that’s the superior customer service that small businesses give over big-box stores.”

According to a Gallup poll conducted earlier this year, the American public ranked small businesses as the second top institution that they have confidence in, with the U.S. military ranking first. In the same poll, big business ranked near the bottom of the list, just 12 percent higher than Congress — which came in last.

With small businesses generating 64 percent of net new jobs over the past 15 years, and employing over half of all private sector employees, take this Saturday as an opportunity to express appreciation and support for local businesses by shopping local for your holiday gift list.