As the official start of the Christmas shopping season is less than a week away, downtown representatives with Sherman and Denison are asking people to think locally for their holiday purchases.

Small Business Saturday, which occurs each year on the first Saturday following Thanksgiving, encourages shoppers to visit smaller, typically local businesses much like Black Friday the day prior. The event was first observed in 2010 and was sponsored by American Express in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

While larger retailers offer a variety of goods, many local shops offer a more personalized approach with specialized inventories and services, Downtown Sherman NOW Executive Director Karen Tooley said. As an example of this, Tooley said downtown Sherman offers multiple small boutiques and a third-generation shoe shop all within close proximity.

“This is what makes Sherman unique,” she said, referring to downtown Sherman’s businesses. “Everybody has a Cracker Barrel. Everyone has a Target, but look what we have.”

Tooley said it can be difficult for smaller retailers in an era where even larger retailers and big-box stores, who historically have dominated sales, are taking a hit from online shopping. Despite this, Tooley said downtown Sherman has seen a renaissance lately with new businesses, and city programs aimed at reinvestment.

“It is real easy and tempting to just jump online and order from,” she said.

Among the many smaller shops that have brought new life to older buildings in Denison is the Under the Eiffel Boutique. Owner Jennifer Lipscomb said she has already seen an uptick in her business ahead of the holidays.

“I have a style I think many women in the area are looking for,” she said, describing the women’s clothing she offers at her store front.

One key to staying relevant while competing with larger stores is a rotating stock that changes and can be completely different after every visit, Lipscomb said. In addition to that, Lipscomb said she and her staff are also able to offer a more hands-on approach and assistance to visitors.

Tooley said beyond the sales tax dollars generated by the smaller businesses, the city also benefits from the tourism well known or popular local stores bring in from neighboring or nearby communities. By visiting one business, shoppers may be introduced to other nearby shops and spend money at both locations.

By patronizing these stores, Tooley said local shoppers can also keep the money they spend in the community. On average, about 68 cents from every dollar spent in local retail stays within that community and is circulated in local payroll, shopping and dining.

Denison Main Street Director Donna Dow said while individually the smaller retailer cannot compete with larger chains, downtown businesses collectively provide as much sales tax as the local Walmart, she said.

“Our downtown businesses make up a significant portion of our sale tax receipts citywide,” Dow said. “That isn’t true with all cities, but we are lucky to have our strong retailers.”

Tooley said with smaller stores unable to directly compete with the larger retailers, many have focused their energies in places that the larger retailers can not. These efforts include a more personalized and intimate approach, she said.

In Sherman, Risk Shoes has been in service in the same location in downtown for 96 years, and has seen three generations of the same family operate the business. Current owner Naif Risk said his key to success in a competitive market has been a focus on customer service and offering what the big stores cannot.

Risk said many times he will have people come in specifically for boot and shoe repair, but they will leave with other purchases as well.

“We have been doing this for so long we all know how each product works and fits,” he said. ”We base a lot of our business on providing that excellent customer service.”