Small Business Saturday highlights local retail

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Betty Clark looks at jewelry inside Under the Eiffel Boutique in Downtown Denison during Small Business Saturday in 2016.

As the holiday shopping season quickly approaches, businesses and downtown groups are asking shoppers to visit and support their local retailers this weekend.

Saturday marks the 10th anniversary of the start of Small Business Saturday, a shopping holiday focused on the smaller, community-driven retail shops across the country. This year, downtown representatives across Texoma are asking shoppers to help support these businesses in what has been a difficult year for many due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The fourth quarter of the year is always the most profitable for businesses due to the holidays and so it is very important for them to finish up the year on a positive note," Denison Main Street Director Donna Dow said.

Small Business Saturday was first observed in 2010 as a counterpoint to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which focus on shopping at larger retailers and e-commerce, respectively. Instead the shopping holiday, which was started in part by American Express, focuses on smaller, brick-and-mortal retailers in local communities.

Despite the pandemic, many downtown Denison businesses plan to continue to tradition of holding a doughnut hole stroll for shoppers starting at 10 a.m. The event will culminate with a drawing for a $500 shopping spree through downtown, Dow said.

"You don't see the advertised specials like you see in big box stores, with everyone rushing to get them," she said, describing the shopping holiday. "Small Business Saturday is more of the mentality to support local businesses."

The ongoing pandemic and other factors will likely affect how many shoppers participate this year. Rather than shopping in person, the holiday will likely see an increase in online shopping, with many going to the stores for curbside pickup, Dow said.

The holiday shopping season has already started well for some retailers, Dow said. While uncertain, she said some of this traffic may be coming north from the Metroplex, where many still worry about large crowds.

""We've seen good progress starting in October," Dow said. "I don't see any downward trends on people shopping."

Elsie Russell, owner of 2 Chicken Home and Market, agreed that this year will look different than previous years. However, she said she hopes it will be much like previous years, only with more precautions.

"It is going to be something of uncharted waters because this isn't something we've experienced with this kind of event," she said. "We are going by what we've experienced in the past and it has always been a big shopping day."

Traditionally, Small Business Saturday traffic is about 30 percent higher than a normal Saturday, which is already the busiest day of the week.

The store will require masks and encourage social distancing by marking places to stand on the floor. The storefront also offers some opportunity to spread outside as well, Russell said.

."We are in something — I'd hate to call it normal, because it isn't normal," she said. "Nothing is normal."

Like many other retailers, Russell said she has turned a lot of her attention to the e-commerce during the pandemic. That is likely going to be a large component of Black Friday, she said.

"A lot of us downtown have pivoted to the ecommerce shopping," she said. "So, it isn't so much that people that people are buying online, they are shopping online."

Betty Clark looks at jewelry inside Under the Eiffel Boutique in Downtown Denison during Small Business Saturday in 2016.

Local retailers have used the online component to augment their brick-and-mortar operations rather than develop a fully online business. As an example,  Russell said said she has reached customers in McKinney and elsewhere in North Texas using various platforms.

"It is not the end-all, beat-all because we do compete with the Amazons, but locally it does extend our reach," she said.

The push for online sales, even on Small Business Saturday, is not limited to Denison and retailers in Sherman are taking similar approaches.

"I think this year has already driven a lot of our downtown businesses to be more cognizant of their online presence more than any time before," Main Street Manager Sarah McRae said. "You definitely have to think outside the box." 

McRae said the smaller nature of Small Business Saturday may be a boon to it in 2020 as some shoppers look for an alternative to the large crowds of Black Friday.

"I really hope that people think of our small businesses more this year," McRae said. They really need you now, even more than they ever did in other years."

In part, McRae compared the ongoing effects from the pandemic on retailers to what was felt in 2008 during the great recession. This played a part in creating the first SBS a decade ago.

Sherman's Glitzy Girls plans to hold a ticketed lady's night event  for the shopping holiday as a way to limit crowds due to the pandemic. The store will also require that patrons wear masks while in the store due to the pandemic.

"It's a pretty big day for us (usually) as far as getting to meet people and be part of the community," said Glitzy Girls Vice President Jessica Crump. As far as sales go, Black Friday is generally a bigger day for them, she added. 

For those who are unable to come or do not wish to wear a mask, Crump said the store has adopted an e-commerce model as well.

"Just for the safety of the people shopping and our employees. We ask that they wear one and if they don't want to wear a mask then they can shop us online 24/7," she said. 

Meanwhile in Whitesboro, some business owners are using the shopping holiday to give to those in need this season.

Tangled Cotton is encouraging business owners to take part in a giving back promotion this weekend. The promotion will allow shoppers to buy tickets that will allow them to get a $5 gift when they visit participating retailers.

The proceeds from the event will go to charity, representatives for the store said. 

"Last year, it was the Whitesboro Lion's Club," Tangled Cotton owner Amanda Harper said. "This year we decided to split it between Whitesboro schools, S&S schools and Collinsville schools." 

Harper said they will be following COVID-19 guidelines with masks and cleaning protocols and want everyone to have a safe and fun shopping experience.