NEW YORK—While the big box stores get all the attention for rock bottom bargains on Black Friday and the Internet grabs eyeballs for slashed prices on Cyber Monday, there are deals to be had in between—and local deals at that.
Enter Small Business Saturday; an initiative to give local economies a holiday spark by supporting locally owned small businesses.
“It is important to support our small businesses. They support us all year long,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney during an event at Eneslow Shoes on Tuesday. “They are the backbone of the economy. The majority of new jobs are created by small businesses in our country.”
For small businesses, copying the big box stores and offering steep discounts is impossible and not the major driver for success. Unlike Black Friday deals, the selling point isn’t the lowest price on an goods, but the intangibles a big box store can’t offer.
Money is not the only incentive. It has to be constantly reminding the consumer why we are here and why they need to shop in our store.
—Bob Schwartz, president of Eneslow Shoes
“They love the personalized service they get when they go to the shop up the street,” said Patricia Norins, spokesperson and adviser for Small Business Saturday (SBS). Norins said small-store owners often refer to their customers by name and can offer individual attention and holiday shopping advice because they have known the customer for years.
SBS was created in 2010 by American Express to address the most pressing needs of small-business owners: higher demand for their products or services and more customers. The credit card company is offering a $25 statement credit when consumers enroll with their Amex card and spend $25. In addition 40,000 winners were selected to receive a $25 gift card, hopefully to be used Saturday.
In just its third year, the holiday, which falls on Nov. 24 this year, is gaining momentum. For the first time, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce rallied 50 of its members, including the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, to drum up support.
“We want the small businesses to survive,” said Nancy Ploeger, president of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. “We feel very badly about the storm and all the small businesses that have been harmed throughout New York and New Jersey. We encourage local communities to shop at those stores as well.”
Bob Schwartz, president of Eneslow Shoes, said that in addition to personalized service, shopping locally owned means keeping the money in the neighborhood.
“It is in all of our best interest,” Schwartz said at his Upper West Side store on Tuesday. “If you live locally, but shop via the Internet, all those sales tax dollars are going to somebody else.”
Local tax revenue gets spent on such things as infrastructure improvements, police, fire, and schools.
To help engage more customers, and compete with the incredible volume of deals consumers are enticed with on Black Friday, locally owned businesses are starting to offer more deals on Small Business Saturday.
“In the past, small business were not keen on offering discounts,” Norins said. “That is not what they are known for. They create their niche on the customer service side of the business.”
Norins reports that 67 percent of the small businesses that have chosen to participate in SBS will offer discounts. The results: shoppers are actually budgeting money for the event.
According to American Express, of the consumers who shopped on SBS last year, 70 percent of them plan to spend an average of $100 on the 24th. The SBS Facebook page has 3.1 million fans.
Long Term Business
But, Small Business Saturday is only one day, and Schwartz believes small businesses need to offer incremental marketing and add value to keep people coming back.
“Money is not the only incentive,” he said. “It has to be constantly reminding the consumer why we are here and why they need to shop in our store.”
In addition to the credit Amex is offering, Schwartz is giving an additional $25 gift card to his customers who buy at least $100 on Saturday. For the first 20 customers who purchase at his store on Nov. 24, Amex is providing an additional $25 gift card, an incentive given to businesses like Eneslow Shoes who are being affected by the Second Avenue Subway construction.
But the biggest incentive Schwartz can offer holiday shoppers is the thing his business has been known for, for over 100 years—high quality customer service.
“The great thing about Eneslow is our people are seasoned professionals committed to a career in helping people. That is what has kept us alive,” Schwartz said.
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