Shoppers shop small on Saturday

Published 8:27 pm Saturday, November 27, 2010

Local business: LaMarion Hightower shops at Uniquely Leo’s Saturday morning to help stimulate local businesses.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday had a newborn sister this year: Small Business Saturday.

For a change of pace from the at-times-nearly-violent bustle of Black Friday at chain stores throughout the United States, shoppers swapped out their running shoes for their comfortable shoes and stayed closer to home to support their local shops.

“It’s great that there’s a national effort to support local economies,” said Alison Dodson Anderson, owner of A. Dodson’s on Bridge Road. “It’s always the David and Goliath story, especially with the way the economy has been, but I have noticed people coming in and talking about the campaign today. A few people have told me they’re stopping here before going to a big box store. It’s great that they’re conscious of it.”

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“Small Business Saturday” was a national campaign that focused on social networking to get traffic into small businesses between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, two of the busiest shopping days of the year.

“It’s great that we’re being supported by a national campaign,” said Marcy Miller, proprietor of Uniquely Leo’s. “Yesterday we had a good turnout, but we’re hoping business will continue to pick up.”

According to Miller, one of the more challenging things about being a small business is simply reminding people that they’re there.

“People are so used to going to places like Macy’s or Walmart,” Miller said. “One of our biggest challenges is getting people away from the mindset that they don’t have to leave town to find nice things. We’re right here.”

While a small business might not be able to compete with a box store in terms of the scope of items available for purchase, the locally owned shops give the big guys a run for the money when it comes down to customer service, individual attention, special touches, unique items and even shipping and mailing, Miller said.

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of buying from local stores is the infrastructure it helps support.

“Small businesses are the backbone of America,” Miller said. “What people spend here literally trickles down to the entire community. All our taxes go into the community, and we all live and work in the community.”

In fact, for every $100 spent at a local small business, $68 returns to the community, according to Civic Economics, an economic analysis and strategic planning consulting company with offices in Austin, Texas, and Chicago.

Coming out of a nationwide recession, it’s particularly important to help support local small businesses that provide easy-access shopping and unique retail items in the community and provide infrastructure to the local economy.

“The recession was very scary,” Miller said. “Business for us has started to pick up since the election, but there were times we were scrambling to make ends meet. Everyone pulled back. For those of us that are left, we’re hoping things keep going up.”

With the support of the community and efforts such as “Shop Small Saturday” local businesses may soon be filling their ledgers with black ink instead of red.

“We came to downtown today because the guys are doing their thing at the house,” said Jennifer Hightower, who was out shopping at Uniquely Leo’s with mother LaMarion Hightower. “They have unique items here. You can’t find them at a Macy’s or other big stores. It’s great, especially for people who are hard to shop for.”

“We live here in Suffolk,” LaMarion Hightower added. “It’s local, and we support patronizing local businesses.”