Look out, Black Friday. There’s a new shopping holiday on the block, and it’s Small Business Saturday.
The National Federation of Independent Businesses, along with local merchants, has dubbed Nov. 24 Small Business Saturday.
The event began in 2010 when American Express founded Small Business Saturday to help small businesses get more exposure during one of the biggest shopping weekends of the year.
Last year, more than 100 million across the country came out to shop at locally-owned small businesses.
The trade association hopes to make the event as popular a shopping occasion as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. If the turnout on Friday was any indication of today’s turnout, things are looking up for Small Business Saturday – and for local businesses like 3 Monkeys on Laurens Street, which had 15 to 20 customers in its store around 2 p.m. Friday.
“It has been like this since I opened the door,” co-owner Sallye Rich said of the crowded store. “I don’t think anybody’s at Walmart or Target. I think they’re all on Laurens Street.”
Rich said the business took part in Small Business Saturday last year and had great success with it.
“We were amazed at how many participated and came in,” she said. “We were more busy on Saturday than we were on Friday. People really turned out and supported it. I think they did a great job of getting the word out, and people expect it now.”
As part of the event, American Express is offering its cardholders a one-time $25 credit for spending $25 or more in a single transaction at a participating small business. Businesses participating have blue “Shop Small” welcome mats at their front doors.
True Value Hardware & Appliances is one of several small businesses with a blue mat out front.
Owner Det Haislip said last year was a success.
“We’ve had people in today saying, ‘We’re gonna call this a Saturday because we want to patronize the small businesses,’” he said. “It’s been a good, positive thing. The merchants are all in because everybody down here is a private business person.”
Haislip and Rich each said supporting small local businesses is better than supporting the large companies because the money stays in the community.
“We live here, we shop here and more of your money stays in your community when you shop at the locally-owned stores,” Rich said, adding that small businesses offer other advantages such as specialized inventory and free gift wrapping, which larger stores often don’t have.
“The bottom line is, the profits these private owners accumulate, the money is spent right here in the community,” Haislip said. “For instance, we’re remodeling the upstairs due to the fact that people patronized us locally, and we’re hiring people to do work to upgrade our building and create a better property value and tax basis.”
Local businesses putting out “Shop Small” mats on Saturday include Equine Divine, Aiken Office Supply, Unique Giftique, 3 Monkeys, The Curiosity Shop and more.
A customizable map listing qualifying American Express partner businesses can be found online at www.americanexpress.com.
Even Gov. Nikki Haley chimed in to promote shopping at the state’s small businesses.
“Your Mom and Pop stores are struggling, will give you great service, and will appreciate you taking the time,” she wrote on her Facebook page on Friday. “Buy South Carolina! It does make a different to our state’s economy.”
The sidewalks of downtown were packed on Friday with people enjoying the Black Friday deals, the beautiful weather and even Christmas music provided by saxophonist and vocalist Highland Brooks, who set up and played in front of Lionel Smith Ltd.
Gail Toole and her sister-in-law Ann Plunkett took a break from shopping on Friday by enjoying a meal at New Moon Cafe – a pile of shopping bags sitting on the ground next to them.
“I love coming here every time we visit,” Plunkett, who is from Albany, Ga., said of downtown Aiken. “Nice shops and restaurants. I look forward to coming every time.”
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime beat for the Aiken Standard.
He is a graduate of Clemson University and hails from Williston.