A day after crowds packed into the big chain-owned stores on Black Friday, the shopping spotlight turned Saturday to supporting the small locally-owned businesses that are a major part of the economy.
The seventh annual Small Business Saturday event saw consumers pump billions of dollars into local businesses around the country, including Seaboard Station near downtown Raleigh. The spending provided a welcome boost to business owners who are fighting to survive against bigger stores and online sellers.
“There really is an important need for people to support local businesses because we do give back more to the community and more of our dollars stay in the community,” said Doug Diesing, owner of Seaboard Wine & Tasting Bar in Raleigh.
Credit card company American Express launched Small Business Saturday in 2010 with the motto “Shop Small.” It’s held the first Saturday after Thanksgiving, between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, to help small businesses at the start of holiday gift season.
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Small Business Saturday has grown in popularity and financial impact. Last year, 95 million consumers took part in Small Business Saturday, up 8.2 percent from 2014.
Small Business Saturday spending at local and independent businesses has grown from $5.5 billion in 2012 to $16.2 billion in 2015.
“A lot of the big boxes have big ad campaigns and they have a lot of large pockets behind them, and small independent businesses usually don’t,” said Cheryl Fraser, owner of Galatea Boutique at Seaboard Station in Raleigh. “So having a big company like American Express shine the light on us is really helpful.”
But just like the big stores are having sales, local businesses also offered incentives to encourage shoppers to come.
Galatea is offering a 15-percent discount to people who bring in coats to donate to the Raleigh Rescue Mission.
Seaboard Ace Hardware offered $10 off on purchases of $50 or more.
Seaboard Wine & Tasting Bar offered a 20-percent discount to people who bought cases of 12 wines. A free wine tasting also helped attract shoppers.
The combination of the wine discount and the desire to support local businesses helped bring Mike Rogers to Seaboard Station.
“We rarely go to a mall,” said Rogers, who traveled from Hillsborough. “We prefer shopping at a local business where you get to know the people and the people get to know you. It’s more like a visit than a business transaction.”
Doug Edgeton of Raleigh took advantage of the sales Saturday to make purchases at Seaboard Wine, Ace Hardware and Logan Trading Company.
“I don’t go to the malls very often,” Edgeton said. “We tend to try to do local stuff or we end up buying things off the Internet. I don’t like the crowds, I’m not a crowd person.”
Business owners say it’s hard to say how much of their sales are specifically due to Small Business Saturday. But several owners said they expected to sell more than on a typical Saturday.
Diesing said he expected to do 25 to 30 percent more business on Saturday.
Seaboard Ace Hardware was on pace to do 500 to 600 transactions on Saturday compared to 400 to 500 on a normal Saturday, according to owner Bob King.
Pam Blondin, owner of DECO Raleigh, a downtown retailer specializing in locally made products, said Saturday isn’t a “do or die” sales day. But Blondin was expecting to do two-and-a-half times more business Saturday than on Black Friday.
“It really does seem to remind people that shopping locally is the best way to go for gift giving,” Blondin wrote in an e-mail. “It seems to raise the issue a bit in people’s minds, and many of our customers on Small Business Saturday are very proud to be shopping local — we make sure they know we are VERY grateful!!”
While the sales on Saturday are welcomed, Fraser of Galatea said Small Business Saturday is more than just a one-day event.
“It’s about the focus long term of when you’re thinking about shopping and anything,” Fraser said. ‘“Oh, maybe I should try the local store first, the local businesses first instead of jumping on the bandwagon of the box store or the bigger companies or the online shopping.’”