Boutiques Count benefits of small business Saturday - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Boutiques Count benefits of small business Saturday

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Traci Higginbotham, owner of Art Emporium in downtown Charleston, helped organize Small Business Saturday promotions with 10 other locally owned stores. Traci Higginbotham, owner of Art Emporium in downtown Charleston, helped organize Small Business Saturday promotions with 10 other locally owned stores.
Elisa Payne, owner of the Charleston boutique Eggplant, says that the Bridge Road stores support local businesses “... in everything we do.” Elisa Payne, owner of the Charleston boutique Eggplant, says that the Bridge Road stores support local businesses “... in everything we do.”
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It's not all about raiding the local shopping center or mall, spiraling around a parking building and standing with a nose pressed against a store window until the doors fling open at midnight this Christmas shopping season.

In fact, the day after Black Friday has become an important date for many, especially owners and patrons of locally owned specialty shops and small businesses.

Small Business Saturday is a day dedicated to supporting small businesses across the country. 

It was originated by American Express in 2010, which now states, "One small day has grown into a movement that millions of individuals, businesses and communities have embraced nationwide."

The day is recognized every year on the Saturday following Thanksgiving. It quickly gained steam, winning official recognition from the United States Senate in 2011.

In 2012, an estimated $5.5 billion in consumer spending was reported through the program.

Many people are making it a point to support locally owned businesses.

"All of the shops (on Bridge Road) are big into supporting local owners, because we're all one-shop owners," said Elisa Payne, owner of Eggplant, a boutique shop in Charleston.

"It seems that on Black Friday, everybody is going to the big stores and getting bargains there and then it seems there is more of a trend to do the boutique-kind of stores on Saturday," she added. "It's been effective. It's nice that American Express was the one that got behind that. That's really helped to get the word out."

Payne practices what she preaches.

"I am a big fan of shopping local, too," she said. "I even make it a point to use the gas station in the neighborhood. We all try to support each other."

There are many advantages to shopping local.

"It benefits the whole community," Payne pointed out. "Everything we do as Bridge Road shops, even fundraisers, gives back to the local community. That community relationship is very much at the front of everything we do. It's a great thing to do." 

Eggplant has a wide array of gift ideas and when selecting her inventory, Payne maintains the same mindset.

"We buy ‘Made in the USA' products, whenever possible," she said. "I have made it a specific point — although I can't do all our products, but if I have an opportunity when I'm digging, I look for it. It's important to me. 

"A lot of the things that are in the store have been made locally, from people in Charleston," she added. "It doesn't always work out, but to the extent that we can do it, we will."

One of the biggest complaints about big box store shopping has been a perceived lack of customer service.

It has resulted in a decrease in customer satisfaction.

Payne said she recognizes this and always aims to provide excellent service, giving a special, personal touch to her customers.

"We gift wrap," she said. "That's becoming rare. It seems that no one does that anymore, but we do. That's something that I never want to get rid of. We can wrap it beautifully, and when people see the boxes, they're excited before they even open the gift. 

"Customer service is so much better when you shop local," she added. "We may have some different policies on returns, but your problems are our problems. We're problem solvers. We want you to walk out with a big smile on your face because you know you got the right gift.  

"We pride ourselves in having unique gifts," Payne added. "We have a lot of gifts that you won't find anywhere else. You may search on the internet and stumble across them, or you can walk into Eggplant and find it." 

Traci Higginbotham, owner of Art Emporium in Charleston, is attempting to get the word out about supporting locally owned business this Christmas season.

Her establishment, on the corner of Quarrier Street and Hale Street, is already decked out with a Small Business Saturday-provided promotional window poster.

And she's rolling out a welcome mat, literally. 

A "Shop Small" mat.

"I registered (through Small Business Saturday) online and created a circle of 10 locally owned businesses," Higginbotham said. "So we received a package with rugs, balloons, banners, magnets, reusable shopping bags. They're really ramping up what they've done. The Charleston Area Alliance is going to help us distribute them to the other businesses."

"Last year was the first year that we had people come in and say that they came in because of Small Business Saturday," she added. "The awareness is good. This year, we're hoping for a little more because of the advertisement we're doing."

Not all locally-owned businesses are outside of large malls, however.

"Inside the Charleston Town Center, there are (local) businesses and (local) food court businesses," said Lisa McCracken, its marketing director. "There's Kid Country Toys that is locally owned. We have several (locally-owned) businesses. We love small shop Saturday. We encourage shoppers to support them inside the mall too. We don't want to forget about them."

With five fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, many small business owners have said they'll do more to get shoppers into their stores during the critical holiday season, according to a recent nationwide survey from American Express and the National Federation of Independent Business.

 

  • 67 percent of small business owners will offer discounts on specific items or general discounts on Small Business Saturday
  • 39 percent of small business owners are planning to collaborate with other small businesses in a community event to promote Small Business Saturday
  • 36 percent will offer coupons for future offers or discounts
  • 33 percent will rely on social media to promote Small Business Saturday to their customers
  • 32 percent are starting their holiday promotions earlier than last year
  • 21 percent are planning to increase the number of employees working on Small Business Saturday
  • Source: National Federation of Independent Business