by Rob Glidden
Area businesses are hoping that Small Business Saturday, a concept designed as a counterweight to the more famous Black Friday, will continue to catch on and bring in customers during Thanksgiving weekend.
The idea was devised by American Express in 2010 and the company has gone to great lengths to promote it. This year they are offering customers a chance to take $25 off a credit card statement if they spend $25 at a local business and register their card online.
“It’s a great concept and it’s being advertised well,” said Laure-Jo Powell, owner of the Rose to the Occasion gift and flower shop in downtown Southington. “Black Friday is not a big day here, but hopefully that Saturday will be busy.”
Powell has a flyer for Small Business Saturday on the door of her store and is offering tote bags to customers as a unique promotion. Diane Couture, co-owner of Plainville’s Artisan’s Marketplace, has similar enthusiasm for the idea. She is offering customers a chance to have 10 percent of what they spend on that Saturday gifted back for use in January or February.
“It’s been phenomenal,” Couture said. “We’ve participated every year and it’s been just wonderful to see how people support American hand-made products during that weekend with all the big-box promotions going on. This doesn’t just support small business, it supports artists.”
The days after Thanksgiving have become more cluttered with shopping-related “holidays” over the years. Cyber Monday emphasizes online shopping while Black Friday is synonymous with sales at big-box franchises like Wal-Mart or Best Buy. While certainly a boon for those companies, Black Friday is often criticized for its unabashed consumerism and the annual tales of people trampled by their fellow shoppers.
However, some stores benefit from both Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. Darlene Charneco, co-owner of Paula’s Unique Consignment in Plantsville, said that the enthusiasm for shopping on Black Friday has the potential to also benefit smaller stores.
“With some people, that idea [for Saturday] has definitely caught on,” Charneco said. “People come here looking for something unique rather than going to the big box stores, but we also do a sale on Black Friday and we have people lining up outside the door.”
For some stores, the reliable activity of the weekend after Thanksgiving makes it hard to gauge the success of promoting Small Business Saturday, even though they are in support of the idea.
“It’s hard for me to tell what impact it’s been having just because we’re a ski shop and that weekend it always nuts,” said Bill Gonsalves, co-owner of Bob’s Chalet in Bristol. “Whenever there is a grassroots effort like this, it’s always positive. There seems to be a movement in the country now to support small business and get away from that mall setting.”
Bo Borgerding at Bristol’s Yankee Harley-Davidson store had similar comments.
“Both days are good and that whole weekend brings in a lot of people,” he said. “It’s a good time for retail.”
At Plainville’s Pottery Piazza, a business that was once based in Southington, owner Sarah Ewertowski said that Friday afternoon often brought in customers who were tired from early morning shopping at big-box stores and wanted to relax. The business has made an effort to capitalize on this habit.
“In terms of promotions, we usually focus on Black Friday,” Ewertowski said. “The idea is still good for small business and I would love to see it catch on more.”
This year’s Small Business Saturday falls on November 24.