While Friday is known for the mega-deals served up by malls and big-box retailers, this Saturday is all about local merchants such as Danielle Frye.
At Shoe Zoo, her children’s shoe and accessory boutique in Davidson, customers can get up to half off select styles on Small Business Saturday, the third-annual national campaign that helps local merchants get in on the holiday retail sales season. It’s a campaign involving small businesses throughout the Charlotte region – and one designed to get customers thinking about their entrepreneurial neighbors all year long.
So Frye hopes to get not only new drop-ins at her store, which is designed like a zoo with zebras and giraffes coming out of the wall, but to get these customers to come back, too.
“All your bigger-type stores do their specials on Black Friday,” said Frye, who opened her boutique in August and has high hopes she can create repeat customers with this Saturday’s specials. “With the Small Business Saturday initiative, that’s our time to shine. … and we want to make the most out of that.”
Shop all year
Experts predict a multibillion-dollar retail season this year, through in-store and online sales. Small-business advocates say shopping with community merchants – not just on Saturday and during the holiday season, but year-round – helps boost the local economy.
“Shopping locally is a great way for people to help their friends and neighbors and create jobs and opportunities in the places where they live,” said Gregg Thompson, N.C. director of the National Federation of Independent Business.
Local Cash Mob movements – where shoppers use social media to pick out a local business, then all go at once – have helped support local entrepreneurs. Amanda Breeden, organizer of Cash Mob Charlotte, says shoppers have spent an average of $600 at stops all over town, including The Last Word bookstore in University City, NoDa Brewing Company, The Secret Chocolatier in south Charlotte, Atherton Market in South End and Ecolicious, a shop in Plaza-Midwood featuring eco-friendly products.
After noticing an uptick in local sales during last year’s Small Business Saturday, Historic Downtown Concord extended the promotion to the fourth Saturday of every month, according to Diane Young with the Concord Downtown Development Corporation. Shoppers become eligible for $100 in downtown Concord “money” to spend at retailers, which includes a mix of shops, restaurants and galleries.
Downtown Concord Cash Mob hits on these Saturdays, too, Young said. During the last stop, the mob spent more than $500 at the galleries and museum housed inside the courthouse.
“Society at large is beginning to recognize the benefit of supporting small, locally owned, independently owned businesses,” Young said.
Showtime for locals
In South End, where merchants are finalizing plans to participate in Small Business Saturday, some are getting an early jump on things.
At Blank Canvas, a men’s and women’s boutique, early Friday shoppers will be treated to a stylish breakfast including salmon balls, quiche, fruit juice and water, according to co-owner Nicole Blackmon, who runs the business with Harold Jordan.
She calls it fashionable food that reflects the style of the boutique, which has “Be the Cool” spelled out in fabric on a wall. Accessories include one-of-a-kind bow ties and hats for men, and handbags and dresses for women.
At Shoe Zoo on Saturday, owner Frye hopes to show off what she called the traditional qualities of small shoe stores. At her boutique, little customers’ growing feet are measured and evaluated regularly, for comfortable-fitting shoes.
“You get that hometown flavor” with her place and other locally owned stores, Frye said.
“It’s just nice to have that personal touch. It’s just nice to come in, and everybody knows your name.”