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Small Business Saturday Spending Up But Picture Not All Rosy

Shoppers looking for one-of-a-kind gifts said they chose to patronize local businesses on Small Business Saturday.

Maryland small business. Credit: Patch
Maryland small business. Credit: Patch

For shoppers in search of unique gifts or those who wanted to avoid the mayhem of Black Friday crowds, buying holiday gifts on Small Business Saturday was a great way to kick off the season.

WBAL TV says that one survey showed more than two-thirds of stores that participated in the event offered discounts. 

“I came out because I love independent stores,” one shopper told the TV station. 
Every store is different.”

Founded by American Express in 2010, Small Business Saturday is celebrated every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Another shopper in Hampden said, “For people who are hard to buy for, it is awesome because you will definitely find something for them.”

Small businesses nationwide saw an increase in awareness and income on the fourth annual Small Business held Nov. 30, said Maryland business blog The Daily Record. According to a national survey collected by the National Federation of Independent Business and American Express, consumers spent about $5.7 billion on Saturday, a 3.6 percent increase from last year. 

The idea behind the marketing campaign, shop owners told theBaltimore Sun, is to remind consumers that "Mom and Pop" stores offer an alternative, along with more unique offerings and plenty of personal service.

"The clothing lines I sell are not sold in department stores," Cathy M. Sidlowski, owner of Freesia women's apparel boutique in Fells Point, told the newspaper. Small Business Saturday, she said, is helping to build "awareness that shopping doesn't have to be done in the mall."

In Anne Arundel County, shoppers who patronized independent shops could win prizes in a drawing if they posted photos of themselves in the stores on Twitter or Facebook.

Shoppers told WJZ TV that buying local is simply a different kind of shopping experience. “It’s nice when you go to a shop where you know the people who own it and who work there,” said Erin Geoghugan.

Steep Discounts to Come?

Overall, some 141 million people hit the stores this long holiday weekend—2 million more than last year, reports WJZ. But shoppers spent on average $407, compared to $423 last year.

“Well, from a retailer’s perspective, it didn’t meet expectations,” said Pat Donoho of the Maryland Retailer Association.

Donoho told the TV station that may be in part because many people started their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving. Many locally owned stores say they don’t rely on Black Friday as much as the big box stores.

And, online retailers fared much better. This Cyber Monday set records for the busiest online shopping day in history, the TV station said. Early numbers indicate online shopping is up more than 17 percent over last year.

Analysts expect many stores will begin offering even steeper discounts around Dec. 15 as they try to clear inventory and compete for last-minute shoppers, the TV station said.

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