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Shop small: Holiday shopping trend focuses on local businesses

Cheryl Johnston (left) and JoAnn Fall, owners of Chickadee Doo-Da gift shop in New Richmond, were busy stocking up for the holiday season last week. The downtown business people hope the idea behind "Small Business Saturday" continues to grow as customers better understand the importance of supporting local businesses and thus the local economy.

Sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is a Saturday geared toward shining the light on small businesses in local communities.

"Small Business Saturday" was launched in 2010 by American Express to encourage customers to frequent their small, local retailers instead of the Big Box stores and Internet retailers associated with the other two major holiday shopping days.

Since its inception, the "Shop Small" initiative has been picking up steam. This year's date for "Small Business Saturday" is Nov. 24.

A number of local retailers plan to officially enroll in the nationwide campaign. Others are hopeful that the expanded awareness about the impact of the holiday season on small business will translate into more customers this year.

On the south end of Knowles Avenue in New Richmond, owner Debbie Morales at Heidi's Hallmark said she tries to cash in on the Black Friday rush, but thinks it might be better if "Small Business Saturday" becomes a bigger success. She admitted that the fledgling movement has some impact on her bottom line, but it's too early to tell just how much of an impact it has.

"If that could become a big day, I think that would be awesome," she said. "That's something we should all shoot for."

Like many small businesses, Morales said the holiday shopping season makes or breaks her bottom line. Anything that can help attract more customers inside her doors, she said, she's all for it.

"I like the idea of Small Business Saturday because it stirs people to shop in their hometown," she said. "Small businesses are the ones that keep the local economy going. It helps to keep the community strong."

Without the support of customers who make an effort to shop local, Morales said many small businesses wouldn't be able to provide jobs to people in the community. Their tax support within the community is also important, she noted.

"People need to understand how important their support is," she said. "We can't survive without them."

At Chickadee Doo-Da gift shop in downtown New Richmond, owners JoAnn Fall and Cheryl Johnston were busy stocking their shelves with holiday items last week. A huge shipment of goods came in via FedEx and price tags and displays had to be completed in the final week leading up to Thanksgiving.

Fall said their shop intends to be involved in the "Shop Small" effort. They are sending out postcards to promote the idea and they are offering special deals on Saturday.

"Black Friday is a non-day for us, because everybody goes elsewhere," she said. "But on Saturday we hope people shop at small shops. Small Business Saturday is starting to catch on, and we hope more people decide to keep their money local this year."

On the north end of town, owner Pat Doyle at Doyle's Farm and Home said the "Shop Small" effort has had some impact on his business over the past couple years. With each passing year, as the message gets out to more people, Doyle said he hopes more customers will get involved and turn out on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

"It helps get people thinking a little bit about where they spend their money," Doyle said of the promotional effort. "It helps raise the awareness of small businesses and the impact they have on communities."

While the holiday season isn't a make-or-break proposition for his business, Doyle said the "shop local" message is an important one to convey at this time of the year.

Doyle said sending the message that people will save time and gas money if they stay closer to home should also be a big motivation for customers to "Shop Small."

Last year, more than 100 million people came out to shop at independently-owned small businesses during Small Business Saturday, according to American Express.

By shopping or dining at a small business on Nov. 24, American Express officials note, customers are showing their support for all the small communities around them.

"This means you could be helping local entrepreneurs offer more jobs, which in turn invigorate the economy," according to a press release from American Express. "This year, go out and support your favorite small business and search for savings on unique merchandise while experiencing spectacular service - a cornerstone of many small businesses."