Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is largely regarded as the first day of the traditional Christmas shopping season, often benefiting big box stores and online giants such as Amazon, but where does that leave the little guys — the local shops, restaurants, inns, and artisans?
November 24 is Small Business Saturday, where shoppers plan to support small and entrepreneurial businesses around the country, a movement spearheaded by American Express in 2010. Maine is home to a little more than 145,500 small businesses, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, employing more than a quarter million Maine employees. The National Retail Federation estimates that 41 percent of shoppers (67 million) are expected to shop on Small Business Saturday, and 78 percent of those say they will do so specifically to support small businesses.
A number of community organizations and retailers are already gearing up to attract shoppers to buy locally, handcrafted, Maine-sourced items, such as the Maine Federation of Farmer’s Markets, as well as a number of craft and artisan fairs such as the Craft Fair held at the Maine American Legion in Rockland and the Annual Festival of Lights Show at the Rockland Elks Club.
In Belfast, Larraine Brown, Director of Belfast Creative Coalition, said, “I'm happy to report that Saturday brings another great chance to celebrate Belfast's fantastic, art-filled community. We can purchase unique, 'perfect' gifts, and support our neighbors, our local businesses and our wonderful, diverse artists. All the shops will be open to welcome you with delights for your eyes, ears and taste buds. I hope you can join your neighbors and friends downtown on Saturday for art, food, fun and shopping!”
Downtown Rockland is also participating heavily in Shop Small/Shop Local initiative. "Shopping in a downtown district is far more appealing than any shopping mall,” said Gordon Page, Executive Director of Rockland Main Street, Inc. “ ‘Main Streets’ in every town and city of all sizes offer unique advantages during the holidays and all year long. Downtown Rockland offers a vibrant community connection with city residents, friends from neighboring towns and merchants that are known by their first names.”
According to a National Federation of Independent Business news release, it’s not too late for businesses who have yet to do any marketing for the day. Three tips that take minimal effort include:
- Let everyone know you’re part of Small Business Saturday social media. If you’re on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or Pinterest, post often and promote any Small Business Saturday deals. Use the hashtags #ShopSmall and #SmallBizSat so shoppers can find you easily.
- Brick and mortar stores: tell your regular customers about Small Business Saturday. Put a sign in your shop and flyers in bags reminding folks to come back the Saturday after Thanksgiving for special deals. Download free “Shop Small” signs from www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/shop-small/promote.
- Showcase the merchandise that would make a great gift. Group items on a table with a sign saying it would be the perfect gift for dad or a great gift for the grandparents. Restaurants can offer Small Business Saturday specials and gift cards.
Another way to check and see who else is participating in Maine is to log onto twitter.com and search with the hashtags #shopsmall and #maine
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org